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Full text of "Phaedrus, Lysis, and Protagoras. A new literal translation mainly from the text of Bekker"

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Professor W.J. Alexander 










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PlI^DRUS . . l 

LYSIS ... U 5 




As Socrates was prowling after his manner about the 227 
streets of Athens in search of self-knowledge, he met a 
gay young acquaintance of his, named Phaedrus, who 
told him that he was just come from the Rhetorician 
Lysias, and was going to refresh himself with a walk 
outside the walls. Socrates joins him, as he feels sure 
that Lysias has been regaling Phcedrus with one of his 
speeches, and that Phnedrus has got it by heart ; and 
having himself, as he confesses, a weakness for speeches, 
he would like above all things to hear it. Phaedrus is 
somewhat coy, though evidently longing to disburden 
himself of his well -conned sentences. Socrates, how 
ever, soon discovers that Phaedrus has got a copy of 
the speech itself beneath his cloak ; and would naturally 
rather hear the actual words of the great orator than 
his young friend s faltering reminiscences. So they 
turn aside from the public road to look for a pleasant 
place in which Phoedrus may read the speech. 

The Ilissus is flowing hard by ; and they walk along 229 
its shallow bed with their feet in the water towards a 
lofty plane-tree which they see before them. Here, 
under the shade of its spreading boughs, they find a 
delicious slope of grass, on which Socrates luxuriously 
stretches himself, thoroughly enjoying the summer scents 
and summer sounds which play around him ; while 
Phcedrus draws forth his treasured document and be 
gins to read. 

It is but a sorry production, poor in style and low in 231 
its moral tone, and surely no fair representation of 


Lysias s ordinary speeches. It purports to be addressed 
to a beautiful youth by a suitor, who owns that he is 
not in love, but who maintains that on this very account 
he ought to be preferred to one who is, because lovers 
are such unreasonable, disagreeable, suspicious, and 
altogether objectionable beings. 

234 When Phaedrus has finished the speech, he bursts in 
to raptures over it, asserting that no one in Greece 
could have written a better. To this Socrates demurs. 
He has not paid much attention, he says, to the sub 
ject-matter, but he does not admire the style and 
mode of treatment. He finds in it a good deal of tau 
tology, juvenile display, and lack of invention. Indeed, 
he fancies that he might even make as good a speech 
himself on the same subject. At this hint of course 
Phaedrus, the speech-lover, catches eagerly. Socrates 
coquets after his manner, and in imitation of his 
young friend s previous coyness ; but is at last forced to 

237 He begins by applying to the subject his familiar 
dialectic method. To escape the conceit of knowledge 
without the reality he would define what love really is. But 
he has not gone far in this somewhat prosaic vein, when 
he professes to feel within himself a poetic impulse, 
which he can only attribute to the inspiration of the 
deity who haunts the spot. He proceeds however 
with his speech, and paints vividly the horrible results 
which flow from the companionship of an impassioned 
lover. But instead of going on to show the advantages 
offered by the suitor who does not love, he feels that in 
attempting to praise he will be carried beyond himself 
by the ecstatic influence to which he has just referred ; 
and therefore, with a farewell to Phaedrus, he brings his 
speech abruptly to a close, and prepares to return home. 
Thus ends his First Discourse on Love. 

242 But Phaedrus will not hear of his going ; and Socrates 
himself is disposed to stay, for he hears his inward 
monitor forbidding him to depart till he has made 
atonement. And then he becomes conscious of his sin. 
In the speech which he has just uttered, by speaking of love 
as an unholy thing, he has blasphemed Eros, the god 


of Love, the son of Aphrodite. And he cannot depart 
till he has purified himself from his sin. And he will 
do so before evil come upon him. The poet Stesichorus 
maligned Helen in his poem, and lost his sight. He 
composed a palinode, showing her to be innocent as 
beautiful ; and his sight was restored to him. So he 
too will compose a palinode by way of atonement. He 
will deliver a panegyric on Love. 

Now follows the Second Discourse on Love, put in- 244 
deed into the mouth of Socrates, but embodying Plato s 
own psychological ideas. It is a mythic hymn in hon 
our of Eros, of surpassing beauty as a literary composi 
tion, and valuable also for its philosophic merit. Love 
is a condition of the soul. The nature of the soul is 
therefore investigated ; and the speaker soars aloft be 
yond the heavenly vault to the bright regions where 
pure existences dwell. There it is given to the soul to 
be feasted on pure beauty ; and in proportion as it has 
been fed and nourished by that heavenly pasture is it 
enabled, during its earthly sojourn, duly to appreciate 
beautiful objects here. 1 he soul, that has fed richly 
there, enslaves here that portion of itself wherein vice 
is contained, and liberates that wherein virtue dwells. 
So walking hand in hand with the object of its love it 
leads on earth a bright and blessed life, looking forward 
to a brighter life beyond, which they two will live to 
gether for their love s sake. Thus does Socrates in 
poetic strain pay to Eros a due recantation for the im 
piety of his former discourse. 

Phcedrus of course is enchanted with the speech. He 257 
thinks that the one composed by Lysias makes but a 
poor figure beside it ; and even fears that Lysias will 
be so put out of conceit with his own work, that he 
will not compose any more, especially as he has been 
somewhat disparaged of late by public men as a mere 
speech-writer. But Socrates has no fear of the kind. 
Public men, he says, only sneer at speeches, because they 
cannot always make good ones. Whether in proposing 
bills or enacting laws they make speeches. The only 
question is, Are the speeches good or bad ? And so we 
come to the point of our whole argument. In what 


does a good discourse, whether spoken or written, con 
sist? In other words, What is Rhetoric? Is it an 
inartistic knack, or a systematic method ? 

261 Rhetoric, Socrates answers, is the art of winning men s 
souls by means of words : not merely in public harangue, 
as is commonly thought, but in talk of all kind, however 
familiar. And its method is, to make things appear 
like to other things in all cases where such likening is 
possible ; and to drag to the light all such attempts in 
one s adversary, however dexterously concealed. Now 
there are some things between which there is such little 
likeness, that this process is difficult ; others again, 
between which the likeness is so great, that this process 
is comparatively easy : and this is the proper field of 
Rhetoric. The accomplished speaker therefore should 
know thoroughly the real nature of things, if he is to 
liken them skilfully with other things : that is, he must 
know the true, and not, as is commonly thought, the 
semblance of the true. 

262 Socrates now proceeds to bring forward the three 
speeches which have just been delivered as illustrations 
of his definition of Rhetoric. The speech of Lysias he 
soon dismisses. It gives no definition of Love. It does 
not even show whether Love belongs to that class of 
things between which there is little likeness, and which 
therefore do not well admit of discussion : or to that 
class of things, between which the likeness is consider 
able, on which therefore there may well be difference of 
opinion and discussion, and in which consequently 
rhetorical skill is most efficacious, and a definition is 
especially necessary. He further points out that Lysias s 
arguments are blurted out without any method ; there 
being no apparent reason why one should come before 
the other. But in his own two speeches, he submits, 
there is method ; and whatever merit they may possess 
is owing to this. And the method by which one should 
proceed is twofold, Combination and Division. A 
speaker, in considering a thing, should take a com 
prehensive view of all scattered particulars connected 
with it, and should combine them into a general notion, 
to be expressed in words by a Definition. This process 


he had followed in his first speech by giving a definition 
of Love. Again, the speaker should divide a general 
notion into its constituent parts, not cutting it up at 
random like a bungling carver, but dissecting it at 1 
joints into its particular species. Thus he had taken 
Madness, and divided it into Divine and Human. 1 he 
latter he had discussed in his first speech. In his 
second he had taken Divine Madness, and had further 
divided it into four subordinate species : of which the 
Amatory that is, the Madness or Inspiration proceed 
ing from Eros and Aphrodite had been the subject of 
his second speech. And the speaker, he adds, who 
adopts these two courses is in his opinion a Dialectician. 

True, breaks in Phaedrus, but not a master of 260 
Rhetoric. Yes, rejoins Socrates, this is true Rhetoric. 
Your professors of Rhetoric teach you a number of tricks 
-exordium, narration, proof, refutation, appeals, and 
the like. But these are mere refinements, preliminary 
accomplishments, of Rhetoric, not Rhetoric itself. To 
produce vomitings and purgings does not make a 
physician. The physician must first know the nature 
of the drug, and the constitution of the patient. Just 
in the same way then that the physician has to do with 
the body ; with the human body generally, and with the 
body of his particular patient : so the rhetorician has to do 
with the mind ; with the human mind generally, and with 
the particular mind of the person or persons whom hi 
is addressing. He must therefore thoroughly know the 
human mind, both as a whole, and in its varieties. He 
must know the exact truth of the thing about which he 
is speaking, that he may be able easily to trace the 
various shades of its likeness to other things. Then, 
with this twofold knowledge as his basis, he must apply 
the thing to the mind by means of words ; discerning 
at once with the rapid tact of practice what likeness o 
the thing to apply to what variety of mind ; and using, 
if you will, all the subordinate artifices of your pro 
fessor s lecture -room, wherewith to flavour and adapt 
his discourse. Thus and thus only will he become a 
real master of Rhetoric. The process will be long and 
laborious : but the wise man will bestow the labour 


required, not with a view of persuading men, but for 
the sake of pleasing the gods. 

274 So much, continues Socrates, for the scientific and 
unscientific treatment of a discourse. Of course what I 
have said may apply in a measure to the written as well 
as the spoken word. But is the written word really 
susceptible of scientific treatment? is it capable of 
producing real and permanent effect? The Egyptian 
god Thamus, whom the Greeks call Ammon, did not 
think so. Writing was brought to him for his approval 
by its complacent inventor. But he thought that it 
would do harm, rather than good, to the memory ; that 
it would give a show of knowledge without the reality. 
And I quite agree with him. Writings seem to me like 
paintings. If you ask them questions, they cannot 
answer you. If you attack them, they cannot retaliate. 
They cannot adapt themselves to individual minds. At 
all times, and to all persons, they present the same cold 
immovable face. They may give momentary pleasure ; 
they may remind a man of something which he knew 
before. But they cannot really teach, because they 
cannot answer questions, and supply what is wanting in 
the mind of the reader. And, instead of aiding, they 
weaken the memory, because they tempt it to rely on 
foreign support. How different from the spoken word, 
of which the written word is but the phantom or 
shadow. The spoken word, as we have shown, is 
possessed both of life and love. It can bear seed, and 
springing up in other minds produce a noble progeny, 
ever undecaying, and giving happiness, so far as happi 
ness is possible, to man. 

278 Socrates concludes his remarks with a few words in 
praise of the orator Isocrates, whom he considers to be 
endowed with a nobler nature than Lysias : and after a 
prayer to the deities of the spot returns with his young 
friend to Athens. 



Soc. Whence come you, friend Phaedrus, and 227 
whither are you bound ? 

Ph. I come from Lysias, the son of Cepha- 
lus ; and I am going for a walk outside the 
walls, as I have been sitting with him a long 
time, in fact ever since daybreak. And it is 
by the advice, Socrates, of our common friend 
Acumenus, that I take my walks in the open 
roads ; for he tells me they are more refresh 
ing than the covered promenades. 

Soc: And he s right there, my good friend. 
So Lysias, it appears, was in the city. 

Ph. Yes, staying with Epicrates at the 
Morychian mansion yonder, close by the 

Soc. Well, how did you pass your time 
there ? though I can hardly doubt that Lysias 
regaled you with his speeches. 

Ph. You shall hear, if you are not too much 
engaged to join me in my walk. 

Soc. Engaged, indeed ? don t you believe 
that in the words of Pindar I would count it 


a matter far above all engagement to hear 
what passed between you and Lysias ? 

Ph. Come on then. 

Soc. If you will begin your tale. 

Ph. I will ; and I can assure you, Socrates, 
you will find it very much in your way. For 
the speech which engaged our attention was in 
a certain fashion of an amatory character ; that 
is to say, Lysias introduced one of our beauti 
ful boys as being courted, but not by a lover ; 
in fact, this is the very point on which he has 
displayed his ingenuity, as he maintains that 
favour ought to be shown to one who is not in 
love, rather than to one who is. 

Soc. What a generous man ! I wish he 
would maintain that poverty has a better claim 
than wealth, and age than youth ; and in short, 
that the preference ought to be given to all the 
other properties that belong to myself in com 
mon with the bulk of mankind. In that case 
his speeches would indeed be delightful, and a 
public boon. But whether he does so or not, 
I have conceived such a desire to hear what he 
says, that even if you extend your walk to 
Megara, and, as Herodicus prescribes, go close 
up to the wall and then turn back again, you 
will not shake me off, I can promise you. 
228 Ph. What are you talking about, my good 
friend Socrates ? It took Lysias, the cleverest 
writer of the day, a long while to compose this 
speech at his leisure ; and do you imagine that 
a novice like myself could repeat it from 
memory without doing injustice to the author ? 


No, that I am very sure I could not ; and yet 
I would sooner be able to do so than come into 
the possession of a large sum of money. 

Soc. My good friend Phaedrus, if I do not 
know Phaedrus, I do not know myself any 
longer. But neither the one nor the other is 
the case ; I do know Phaedrus ; I know full 
well that on hearing Lysias read the speech, he 
was not content with hearing it once only, but 
kept urging him to repeat it again and again ; 
and Lysias was quite as eager to comply. 
Phaedrus however was not satisfied even with 
this, but at last took the book from the other s 
hands, and looked over again the parts he 
especially fancied. And being wearied with 
sitting all the morning thus engaged, he set 
out for a walk, though not, I fully believe, till 
he had learnt the entire speech by heart, un 
less it was a very long one. And he was going 
outside the walls to con it over by himself. 
But on his way he met with a man who is 
afflicted with a weakness for listening to 
speeches, and when he saw him he was 
charmed (oh so charmed) at the sight, for 
says he, I shall now have a friend to share 
in my raptures. So he requested his friend 
to join him in his walk. When however this 
lover of speeches asked him to commence, he 
began to be coy, as though disinclined, albeit 
determined I am sure, if he could get no willing 
hearer, to speak out at last even to unwilling ears. 
Do you therefore, Phaedrus, request him to do at 
once what at all events he is sure to do presently. 


Ph. My wisest plan, there seems little doubt, 
is to repeat the speech as well as I am able ; 
for I believe you have made up your mind on 
no account to let me go, till I have given it 
you in some way or other. 

Soc. You have defined my intentions to a nicety. 

Ph. Well then I ll do my best, though really, 
Socrates, I can assure you that I have not 
learnt the words by heart ; but if you are con 
tent with a general view of the points of dif 
ference, as Lysias laid them down, between the 
claims of the impassioned and unimpassioned 
suitor, I am ready to go through them in order 
under their several heads, beginning where he 

Soc. Thank you, my obliging friend ; not 
till you have shown me though, what it is you 
have got there in your left hand beneath your 
cloak, as I have a shrewd suspicion that it is 
the speech itself. If so, I must beg you to 
understand that, fond as I am of you, I have 
yet no intention at all of lending myself for you 
to practise upon, while Lysias is also present. 
So let us see what you have got. 
229 ph. Enough, Socrates, I confess ; you have 
dashed down the hope I entertained of prac 
tising my memory on you. But where would 
you like us to sit down and read the speech ? 

Soc. Let us turn aside here, and go down 
by the Ilissus, and then wherever we find a 
spot to our taste we will sit down and rest. 

Ph. How lucky that I happened to come 
out without my shoes and you, Socrates, we 


know never wear them. Our easiest plan then 
is to walk along the streamlet with our feet in 
the water, and we shall find it by no means 
disagreeable, considering the season of the 
year, and the hour of the day. 

Soc. Come on then, and keep at the same 
time a look-out for a seat. 

Ph. Do you see that towering plane-tree 
yonder ? 

Soc. Of course I do. 

Ph. Well, there we shall find shade and a 
gentle breeze, and grass enough for a seat, or 
if we prefer it, for a bed. 

Soc. Let us walk towards it. 
Ph. Tell me, Socrates, was it not from some 
where hereabouts on the Ilissus that Boreas is 
said to have carried off Orithyia ? 
Soc. So the tale goes. 

Ph. Must it not have been from this very 
spot ? So beautiful is the water here, so clear 
and transparent, and just such as one can fancy 
maidens loving to play by. 

Soc. No, not here, but about a quarter of a 
mile lower down, just where we cross over to the 
temple of the Huntress. And if I am not mis 
taken, there is an altar on the spot to Boreas. 

Ph. I have never noticed it. But tell me 
honestly, Socrates, do you believe this tale of 
mythology to be true ? 

Soc. Why, I should do nothing strangely 
out of the way if I were to refuse it credit, as 
the learned do ; and go on in their rational 
ising method to say that as the girl was playing 


with Pharmacsea she was blown over the ad 
joining cliffs by a blast of the wind Boreas ; 
and that, having met with her death in this 
manner, she was fabled to have been carried 
off by the god Boreas either from this place, 
or if you like from Mars s hill, which, accord 
ing to another account, was the scene of her 
adventure. But for my part, Phaedrus, though 
I consider such explanations sufficiently pretty, 
yet I esteem them the peculiar province of a 
very subtle, painstaking, and by no means par 
ticularly enviable person ; if for no other reason 
than that he will be called upon, as soon as he 
has finished this subject, to set us right as to 
the form of the Hippocentaurs, and again as to 
that of the Chimaera, and then he will have 
pouring in upon him a like crowd of Gorgons 
and Pegasuses, and such a wondrous host of 
portentous and impossible creations, that if he 
were to disbelieve them all, and, with a kind 
of vulgar acuteness, apply to each successively 
the test of probability, he would require no 
small amount of time and labour for the task. 
But I have no leisure for such studies and 
the reason, my friend, is this : I cannot as yet 
230 obey the Delphic inscription, which bids me 
know myself ; and it seems to me ridiculous 
for one who is still destitute of this knowledge 
to busy himself with matters which in no wise 
concern him. I therefore leave these subjects 
alone, and acquiescing in the received opinion 
regarding them I devote myself, as I just now 
said, to the study, not of fables, but of my own 


self, that I may see whether I am really a more 
complicated and a more furious monster than 
Typhon, or a creature of a gentler and a simpler 
sort, the born heir of a divine and tranquil 
nature. But by the bye, Phaedrus, was not this 
the tree to which you were leading me ? 
Ph. The very one. 

Soc. Well, really, this is a glorious resting- 
place. For the plane-tree I find is thick and 
spreading, as well as tall, and the size and 
shadiness of the agnus castus here is very 
beautiful, and being at the height of its flower 
it must render our retreat most fragrant. How 
delicious too is this spring trickling under the 
plane-tree, and how cold its water, to judge by 
the foot ! It would seem from these images and 
votive offerings that the place is sacred to some 
nymphs and river-god. Again, how lovely and 
enjoyable above measure is the airiness of the 
spot ! summer-like and clear there rings an 
answer to the choir of the cicalas. But the 
most charming thing of all is this abundant 
grass, with its gentle slope just made for the 
head to fall back on luxuriously. Really, 
Phaedrus, you make a most admirable guide. 

Ph. And you, Socrates, are a most un 
accountable being. In fact, as you say, you 
are just like a stranger who is being shown 
the beauties of the place, and not like a native 
of the country ; the consequence this of your 
never leaving the city either to cross the 
frontier, or even, I do believe, for so much as 
a walk outside the walls. 

1 6 PH&DRUS 

Soc. You must bear with me, dear Phaedrus 
I am so fond of learning. Now trees, you 
know, and fields won t teach me anything, but 
men in the city will. You, however, would 
appear to have discovered the charm that can 
entice me out. For as shepherds draw after 
them their hungry flocks by shaking branches 
or grain up and down before their eyes, so could 
you, I believe, make me follow you, not only all 
round Attica, but also wherever else you might 
wish to lead, by simply holding out to me a 
written speech as a bait. And since we have 
reached this spot on the present occasion, I 
cannot do better than lay me down to listen, 
and do you choose that posture which you 
think most convenient for reading in, and be 
gin the speech. 

Ph. Attend then : 

231 With the state of my affairs you are 
acquainted, and that I expect advantage to us 
both from this arrangement you have heard. 
Now I claim not to be disappointed in my suit 
on the ground of my not belonging to the 
number of your lovers. For they repent of 
the benefits they have conferred the moment 
that their desire ceases ; but for us, who never 
love, there is no particular time at which we 
may be expected to change our minds. For 
it is not under the influence of a resistless 
passion, but of our own free choice, that we do 
you a kindness, consulting what our means 
will allow, and what is best for our interests to 
bestow. Again, lovers take into consideration 


the derangement of their private affairs which 
their love has occasioned, and the services 
they have rendered their favourites ; and add 
ing all the trouble they have taken to the reckon 
ing, they conceive that by all this they have 
long ago paid the return which is due to the 
object of their affection. We, on the other 
hand, are not able to pretend that we have 
neglected our fortunes for love ; we cannot 
take into account the labours we have endured, 
nor plead the domestic quarrels which have 
resulted from our devotion ; so that, as our 
suit is divested of all such evils as these, we 
have nothing left us but cheerfully to do what 
ever we may think we shall please you by per 
forming. Again, if it be a fair reason for set 
ting store on a lover, that he professes greater 
attachment for his favourite than for any one 
else, and is ready both by word and deed to 
incur the enmity of all the world beside, if he 
can but gratify the object of his passion, it is 
easy to perceive that, if his profession be a true 
one, all of whom he may hereafter become 
enamoured will be held of greater account than 
his earlier love ; and it is clear that, if the for 
mer wish it, he will not hesitate to do even 
harm to the latter. And how can you think it 
reasonable to lavish so costly a treasure on 
one suffering under a fatal infliction, which no 
man acquainted with its nature would even 
attempt to avert ; when even the sufferer him 
self owns that his mind is diseased, and that 
he knows his own folly, but cannot control 

1 8 PH&DRUS 

himself? And when this man is restored to 
his senses, how can he possibly judge that to 
be well done about which he was so desirous 
when in such a state of mind ? And further, 
if you were to select the best from among your 
lovers, your choice would be made from a 
small number ; but if from the rest of the world 
you were to select the man who is most suit 
able to yourself, it would be made from a 
large number ; so that there is far more reason 
to expect that in the larger number exists the 
one who is deserving of your attachment. If, 
moreover, you stand in awe of public opinion, 
and dread its reproaches on the affair being 
discovered, it is but natural to suppose that 
lovers, from an idea that others will deem them 
as happy as they esteem themselves, will be so 
elated as to talk of their intimacy, and with 
ostentatious vanity give all men to know that 
their labour has not been spent in vain ; but 
that we on the other hand, who by never loving 
never lose the dominion over ourselves, should 
prefer what is truly advantageous to any cele 
brity that is to be had in the world. Again, 
men cannot help hearing and seeing how 
lovers run after their favourites, and that too 
with elaborate parade ; so that the mere fact 
of their being seen talking together is sufficient 
to give rise to suspicion ; whereas no one 
would think of suspecting us for holding con 
versation with you, as they know that people 
cannot help talking with some one or other, 
.either from friendship or for some other plea- 


sure. And further, if you have ever conceived 
an alarm from remembering how difficult it is 
for a friendship to last, and from the reflection 
that in ordinary cases, when a quarrel has 
taken place, the misfortune is felt equally on 
both sides ; but that in love, as it is you who 
have lavished what you prize most highly, so 
it is you who will suffer most deeply by a rup 
ture ; let me remind you that here again it is 
those who are in love that you have most 
reason to look upon with terror. For many 
are the causes that irritate lovers, and they 
think that everything is done to hurt and annoy 
them. For which reason also they are anxious 
to deter you from associating with the world, 
fearing those who are possessed of substance, 
lest they outbid them with money, and those 
who are educated, lest they outshine them in 
ability ; and so, whatever may be the advant 
age a man possesses, they look with suspicion 
on his influence in that particular. If then 
they succeed in persuading you to abstain from 
society, they leave you at last without a friend 
in the world ; but if, with an eye to your own 
interests, you adopt a different and wiser course, 
a quarrel will be the inevitable result. By us, 
on the other hand, who are not in love, but 
owe to our merit the accomplishment of our 
desires, no jealousy would be entertained for 
those who cultivate your acquaintance, but 
rather dislike for such as avoid it ; as we 
should consider ourselves slighted by the 
neglect of the latter, but benefited by the in- 


timacy of the former. And such being our 
feelings, surely you have reason to expect that 
friendship rather than hatred will result from 
our intercourse. And further, lovers frequently 
conceive a desire for the person before they 
have discovered the character or become 
acquainted with the other circumstances of 
their favourites, so that it is impossible for you 
to tell whether their disposition for friendship 
will outlast the continuance of their desire. 
233 But when passion has never existed, when your 
favours have been obtained by those who were 
your friends before, it is not likely that this 
friendship will be lessened by what has been 
the source of so much delight rather will the 
memory of the past be an earnest of future 
attachment. And further, you must not forget 
the superior opportunities of improvement 
which will be afforded you by favouring my 
suit. Lovers are so neglectful of your best 
interests, that they praise everything you say 
and do, partly for fear of giving offence, and 
partly because their own judgment is debased 
by their passion. For such are the caprices 
of love \ if its victim be unsuccessful, it makes 
trifles which trouble no one else seem distress 
ing to him ; if successful, it exacts - from him 
admiration for what contains no cause of satis 
faction. So that I consider pity to be far 
more suitable than congratulation for the ob 
jects of such an attachment. I on the other 
hand, if you yield to my wishes, will associate 
with you on the following terms. Not consult- 


ing our present gratification so much as our 
future advantage ; not enslaved by passion, 
but master of myself; not ready to contract a 
violent animosity on slight provocation, but 
slow to conceive a moderate displeasure for 
serious offences, I will freely pardon all in 
voluntary faults, while such as are intentional 
I will endeavour to correct. For such conduct 
is a sure sign of a friendship that will long 
endure. But if the thought, as is not unlikely, 
has suggested itself to you, that it is impossible 
for attachment to be strong if unaccompanied 
by passion, you ought to bear in mind, that in 
that case we should care but little either for 
our sons or for our fathers and mothers, 
nor should we ever possess faithful friends on 
any other footing than an amatory connection. 
Again, if it is proper to bestow favours most 
on those who need them most, it follows that 
from the world in general you ought to select, 
not the best, but the neediest as the objects of 
your charity for the greater the misery they 
are rescued from, the greater is the debt of 
gratitude they will owe you. Nay, further, when 
you give an entertainment, you will be expected 
to ask not friends to your board, but those 
who beg an invitation and require a meal ; for 
they will be charmed with your kindness, and 
will follow in your train and throng your doors, 
and express themselves highly delighted and 
deeply grateful, and invoke countless blessings 
on your head. It may be though that this is 
not the true ground of selection ; it may be 


that you ought to bestow your favours, not on 
those who need them most, but on those who 
234 are best able to repay them ; not on lovers 
merely, but on those who are worthy of the 
favour in question ; not on men who will enjoy 
the flower of your youth, but on those who in 
your more advanced years will share with you 
their fortunes ; not on such as when they have 
achieved their purpose will parade their success 
to the world, but on such as from feelings of 
delicacy will never open their mouths on the 
subject ; not on suitors who sue you with a 
shortlived enthusiasm, but on friends who will 
continue friends all your life long ; not on men 
who, when they are released from their passion, 
will seek some pretext for a quarrel, but on 
those who, when your bloom is faded, will then 
display their own true excellence. Remember 
now, I pray you, all I have said ; and also 
bear in mind that lovers are taken to task by 
their friends on the score that their course of 
life is a bad one ; whereas never have those 
who do not love been reproached by any of 
their relatives with neglecting on that account 
their private affairs. You may perhaps ask 
me whether I recommend you to bestow your 
favours on all who do not love you. But 
neither, I imagine, would a lover bid you enter 
tain such sentiments towards all your lovers 
alike. No, if you view the matter reasonably, 
you cannot consider such conduct deserving of 
equal gratitude, nor, however you might wish it, 
would you be equally able to preserve the affair 


secret from the world. And harm, you must re 
member, ought to accrue to neither from the tran 
saction ; advantage should rather result to both. 

My suit has now been urged with arguments 
which for my part I deem convincing should 
you see in them any defect or omission, they 
are open to any questions you may choose to ask. 

Well, Socrates, what do you think of the 
speech ? Is it not wonderfully fine, especially 
in point of language ? 

Soc. Nay, divinely, my good friend ; it quite 
threw me into an ecstasy. And this sensation 
I owe to you, Phaedrus ; for all the time you 
were reading, I kept my eye on your face, and 
saw it glow with rapture under the influence of 
the speech. And esteeming you a better judge 
in such matters than myself, I thought I could 
not do better than follow your example, and so 
I have shared with you in all your transports, 
my god-inspired friend. 

Ph. Nay, Socrates, always so bent on 
jesting ? 

Soc. Jesting ! don t you believe I am in 
earnest ? 

Ph. Oh, no more of this, Socrates ; but tell 
me honestly, as you love me, do you believe 
that any man in Greece could write more ably 
and fully on the same subject ? 

Soc. How do you mean, Phaedrus ? Are we 
required to praise the speech for the fitness of 
its subject-matter, or merely on the ground that 
every word in it is clear, and rounded and 
polished off with a nice precision ? If on the 


former ground as well, it is only to please you 
235 that I can comply ; since for my part my 
incapacity is such, that I observed no excel 
lence of the kind. For I was merely directing 
my attention to its rhetorical merit, though this 
I did not imagine even Lysias himself would 
consider sufficient. In fact, I thought, Phaedrus 
please correct me if I am wrong that he 
repeated the same things two or three times 
over, as though he found it no such easy 
matter to say much on one subject. Perhaps, 
though, it was that he did not mind this sort 
of thing ; nay, I could even fancy that he was 
showing off with a young man s display the 
power he possessed of expressing his ideas in 
two different ways, and in both with the finest 
possible language. 

Ph. You are quite wrong, Socrates ; the 
very merit which you deny is to be found in 
the speech in even an eminent degree. Of all 
appropriate topics which the subject contained, 
it has not omitted a single one ; so that I am 
sure, that after what he has said no one could 
ever support the same position at greater 
length, or with arguments of greater value. 

Soc. On this point, Phaedrus, it will be no 
longer in my power to agree with you. For 
wise men and women of old time, who have 
written and spoken on the subject, will rise up 
and bear witness against me, if out of com 
plaisance to you I make this concession. 

Ph. Whom do you mean ? where have you 
ever heard the subject better treated ? 

PHrf.DRUS 25 

Soc. I cannot say just at the moment, 
though I am sure I have heard it somewhere, 
either perhaps by the fair Sappho, or the sage 
Anacreon, or may be by some prose writer or 
other. What leads me, you will ask, to this 
conclusion ? The fact is, my worthy Phaedrus, 
that my breast, I know not how, is full of 
matter, and I feel that I could be delivered of 
a speech different from, and in no wise inferior 
to this. Now that I have invented none of it 
myself, I am confident, as I am no stranger to 
my own stupidity. It remains then, I think, 
that like a pitcher I have been filled, through 
my ears, from some foreign springs ; but here 
again so stupid am I, that I have quite for 
gotten both how and where I gained my 

/ //. Never mind, Socrates, you have told 
me most excellent tidings ; don t trouble your 
self about telling me how or from whom you 
heard it, but just do the very thing that you 
say. Undertake to produce a speech of equal 
length and merit with that which I have got 
written here, without availing yourself of any 
of its arguments, and for my part I promise 
you, after the fashion of the nine archons, that 
1 will dedicate to the god at Delphi a golden 
statue as large as life, not only of myself, but 
also of you. 

Soc. You are very kind, Phaedrus, and quite 
deserve the statue of gold, if you understand 
me to mean that Lysias missed his mark 
altogether, and that it is possible to produce a 


speech which shall contain nothing that he 
said. No, I do not think this could be done 
with even the most worthless writer. Since, 
to take our present subject, do you suppose 
that any man who was maintaining the superior 
claims of the unimpassioned to those of the 
impassioned suitor, would be able to proceed 
with his arguments if he were to omit lauding 
the sanity of the one, and blaming the insanity 
236 of the other ? these being topics which are 
necessarily inherent in the proposition. No, 
such arguments ought, I think, to be allowed 
and conceded to the author ; and in all such it 
is not the invention, but the arrangement that 
should be admired ; whereas in those which, 
instead of being impossible to miss, are difficult 
to find, the invention as well as the arrange 
ment may claim our approval. 

Ph. I admit the distinction, as it appears to 
me to be fairly stated. And what is more, I 
will act up to it. I will allow you to assume 
that a man in love is in a more diseased con 
dition than one who is not in love, and if, 
when this point is put out of the question on 
both sides, you surpass Lysias in the number 
and value of your arguments, you may expect 
to figure in massive gold at Olympia by the 
side of the offering of the Cypselidas. 

Soc. You have taken it quite to heart, 
Phaedrus, that in teasing you I have laid hold 
upon your favourite ; and I see you expect that 
I shall really attempt, in emulation of his skill, to 
produce something still more skilfully wrought. 


Ph. For that matter, my friend, you have 
given me quite as good a hold on you. For 
speak you must as well as you are able ; there 
is no help for it. But do take care that we are 
not compelled to have recourse to the vulgar 
stage-trick of retorting upon each other ; pray 
don t force me to say as you did just now : 
My good Socrates, if I don t know Socrates, I 
don t know Phaedrus any longer ; and again, 
1 Socrates is dying to speak, but affects to be 
coy. No, make up your mind that we will not 
stir from this spot, till you have disclosed what 
you said you had in your breast. For here we 
are by ourselves in a retired place, and I am 
the younger and stronger man of the two. All 
which things being considered, you had better 
mind what I say, and determine to speak of 
your own free will rather than by compulsion. 

Soc. But really, Phaedrus, it would be ludic 
rous in a novice like me to set myself in com 
parison with an experienced author, and extem 
porise on a subject which he has discussed. 

Ph. I ll tell you what it is, Socrates ; you 
must let me have no more of this coquetting, 
as I am pretty sure I have that to say which 
will compel you to speak. 

Soc. Pray don t say it then. 

Ph. Nay, but I will, and here it is. And it 
shall be in the form of an oath. I swear to 
you by whom, by what god shall I swear ? 
Shall it be by this plane-tree? Yes, by this 
plane I swear, that if you do not produce your 
speech here before her, I will never again 


either report or recite to you the speech of any 
author whatsoever. 

Soc. Ah, wretch, well have you discovered 
the means of compelling a speech-enamoured 
man to do your bidding, whatever it be ! 

Ph. What makes you hang back, then ? 

Soc. I will do so no more, since you, 
Phaedrus, have sworn this oath. For how 
could I ever have the heart to exclude myself 
237 from such a feast ? 

Ph. Begin then. 

Soc. Shall I tell you what I mean to do ? 

Ph. About what ? 

Soc. I mean to speak with my face covered, 
that I may hurry through the speech as quickly 
as possible, and not break down for shame, by 
looking at you. 

Ph. Well, do but speak, and you may settle 
everything else as you like. 

Soc. Come now, ye Muses called Ligaean, 
whether it be to the nature of your song, or to 
the music -loving race of the Ligyans that ye 
owe the name, come help me in the tale 
which my kind friend here is forcing me to 
tell, in order that his favourite, who even here 
tofore seemed to him to be wise, may -now 
seem wiser than ever. 

There was once upon a time a boy, say 
rather a youth, of surpassing beauty. Now 
this youth had very many lovers ; but one of 
them was a cunning fellow, who though he 
loved him no less warmly than his rivals, had 
made the youth believe that he loved him not. 



d one day as he was urging his suit, he 
dertook to prove this very point, that the 
dispassionate suitor had a better claim on his 
favour than the impassioned lover. And here 
is his proof. 

On every subject, my friend, there is but 
one mode of beginning for those who would 
deliberate well. They must know what the 
thing is on which they are deliberating, or else 
of necessity go altogether astray. Most men, 
however, are blind to the fact that they are 
ignorant of the essential character of each in 
dividual thing. Fancying therefore that they 
possess this knowledge, they come to no mutual 
understanding at the outset of their inquiry ; 
and in the sequel they exhibit the natural con 
sequence, an inconsistency with themselves and 
each other. Let not you and me then fall into 
the error which we condemn in others ; but 
since the question before us is, whether love or 
the absence of love is desirable in friendship, 
let us first establish by mutual consent a de 
finition of love that will explain its nature and 
its powers ; and then, with this to look back 
upon and refer to, let us proceed to consider 
whether it is profitable or injurious in its results. 
Now that love is a kind of desire is clear to 
every one, and equally clear is it on the other 
hand, that without being in love we desire 
beautiful objects. How then are we to mark 
the lover ? We should further observe, that 
in every one of us there are two ruling and 
directing principles, whose guidance we follow 


wherever they may lead ; the one being an 
innate desire of pleasure ; the other, an acquired 
judgment which aspires after excellence. Now 
these two principles at one time maintain har 
mony ; while at another they are at feud within 
us, and now one and now the other obtains 
the mastery. When judgment leads us with 
sound reason to virtue, and asserts its authority, 
we assign to that authority the name of temper 
ance ; but when desire drags us irrationally to 
pleasures, and has established its sway within 
us, that sway is denominated excess. Now 
238 excess, you must know, is a thing of many 
names, as it is of many parts and many forms. 
And of these forms, that which may happen to 
have obtained the predominance brands its 
possessor with its own name, and that one 
neither honourable nor worth possessing. For 
instance, when desire in regard of eating gets 
the better of the highest reason and the other 
desires, it will be termed gluttony, and cause 
its possessor to be called a glutton. If again 
it has usurped dominion in the matter of drink 
ing, and drags the individual affected by it in 
this direction, I need not say what designation 
it will acquire. And since in general names 
akin to these names are applied to desires 
akin to these desires, it is sufficiently clear 
what is the proper appellation of the desire 
which for the time being happens to be domi 
nant. Now my motive for introducing these 
previous remarks must by this time be pretty 
well evident ; but nothing is so clear that it 


does not admit of becoming clearer by being 
spoken. When desire, having rejected reason 
and overpowered judgment which leads to 
right, is set in the direction of the pleasure 
which beauty can inspire, and when again 
under the influence of its kindred desires it 
is moved with violent motion towards the 
beauty of corporeal forms, it acquires a sur 
name from this very violent motion, and is 
called love. But by the way, my dear Phae- 
drus, do I appear to you, as I do to myself, 
to have been speaking under some influence 
divine ? 

Ph. There certainly can be no doubt, So 
crates, that an unusual kind of fluency has 
come upon you. 

Soc. Hearken then in silence to my words, 
for in very truth the place where we are sitting 
seems holy ground. So that if haply in the 
course of my oration I become entranced by 
the spirits of the spot, you must not marvel 
thereat ; for my present utterance falls no 
longer far short of a dithyrambic strain. 

Ph. Most true ; it does not. 

Soc. And for this, Phsedrus, you are answer 
able. But listen to the remainder of my speech, 
for it may be that I shall escape the trance. 
This, however, will be as Heaven pleases ; for 
ourselves, we must return in our discourse to 
the beautiful boy. 

Come then, my excellent youth. Since the 
definition of the subject under discussion has 
been stated and accurately marked, let us now 


keep this in our view, while we proceed to con 
sider what advantage or injury is likely to result 
to you from favouring the wishes of an im 
passioned and unimpassioned suitor respectively. 
If a man be governed by desire and the slave 
of pleasure, he must of necessity, I think, 
endeavour to render his beloved the source of 
as much pleasure to himself as he possibly 
can. Now, to a sick man everything gives 
pleasure that does not oppose itself to his 
wishes, but whatever asserts a superiority or 
even an equality, excites his dislike. A lover, 
therefore, if he can help it, will not bear his 
favourite to be either superior to or on a level 
239 with himself, but is always striving to lower 
him and make him inferior. Now ignorance 
is inferior to learning, cowardice to courage, 
incapacity as a speaker to oratorical skill, 
heaviness of intellect to a ready wit. Such, 
among many others, are the mental defects 
which a lover must needs rejoice to find in his 
loved one if they are naturally inherent, and 
which, if they result from education, he must 
endeavour to instil, or else forfeit his immediate 
gratification. The consequence is, that your 
lover will regard you with a jealous eye, and 
by debarring you from many valuable acquaint 
ances, the cultivation of which would be most 
conducive to your growth in manliness, he will 
do you serious harm, and the greatest harm of 
all by excluding you from that which would 
make you most truly wise ; I mean the study 
of Divine Philosophy, from which your lover 


will be sure to keep you as far as possible 
asunder, for fear of your there learning to 
despise him. And not content with this, he 
will so scheme as to leave you in total ignor 
ance of every subject whatever, so that on 
every subject you may be compelled to look to 
him for information ; as this is the condition 
for you to be in that will cause him the keenest 
delight, but yourself the most ruinous harm. 
So far then as mental improvement is con 
cerned, you cannot have a less profitable guide 
and companion than a suitor who is under the 
influence of love. 

Let us now proceed to consider what will be 
your corporeal habit, and what your course of 
bodily discipline, if you have for your lord and 
master a man who cannot help pursuing plea 
sure in preference to virtue. Such a person 
will be seen running after a delicate stripling, 
not hardy in frame nor reared beneath a scorch 
ing sun, but fondled under the shade of blend 
ing trees ; a stranger to manly toil and healthful 
sweatings, but no stranger to the softness of a 
woman s life, decking his person with false 
colours and ornaments, in lack of nature s 
graces, and given in short to all such practices 
as are the natural concomitants of these. What 
they are, you know so well that I need not 
dilate on them further ; but, summing them up 
under one general head, I will proceed to an 
other branch of my subject. They are such 
that the youth whose body is trained in them 
will not fail in time of battle and all serious 


emergencies to inspire his enemies with con 
fidence, but his friends and even his lovers 
with alarm. 

To pass from these obvious reflections, let 
us in the next place examine what advantage 
or what injury to your fortune we may expect 
to find resulting from the companionship and 
management of a lover. Clear it must be to 
every one, and to the lover himself most of all, 
that there is nothing he would pray for so 
earnestly as for the object of his attachment to 
be deprived of his dearest, fondest, and holiest 
treasures. Gladly would he see him bereft of 
father and mother, of relations and friends, as 
in them he views only so many censors and 
obstacles in the way of that commerce with 
240 his beloved which he loves most dearly. More 
over, if a youth be possessed of property in 
gold or other kind of substance, he will not 
appear so ready a prey, nor so easy of manage 
ment when caught in the toils. And thus it can 
not possibly be but that a lover will grudge his 
favourite the possession of fortune, and rejoice 
sincerely in its loss. Nay more, he would fain 
have him remain as long as possible without 
wife, or child, or home, in his desire of reaping 
for the longest time he can the full enjoyment 
of his own delights. 

There are, I am aware, other evils beside 
this in the world, though few with which some 
deity has not mingled a temporary gratification. 
A parasite, for instance, is a shocking and a 
baneful monster, yet still nature has infused 


into his blandishments a not unpolished charm. 
A mistress moreover may be condemned as a 
dangerous evil ; and the same objection may 
be made to a variety of similar creatures and 
pursuits, which are yet capable of affording, for 
the passing hour at least, the keenest enjoy 
ment. But a lover, beside being detrimental 
to his favourite, is of all distasteful things the 
most distasteful in daily intercourse. We are 
told by an ancient saying, that youth is pleased 
with youth, and age with age : I suppose be 
cause a similarity of years, leading to a simi 
larity of pleasures, by virtue of resemblance 
engenders friendship. But yet the intercourse 
even of equals is not unattended by satiety. 
And further, in every transaction every one, it 
is said, finds compulsion irksome ; and this is 
an evil which, in addition to their want of 
sympathy, is felt in the highest degree by the 
favourite in the society of his lover. For an 
old man is the companion of a young one, 
never leaving him if he can help it by day or 
by night, but driven onward by a resistless 
frenzy, which is all the while ministering to 
him indeed exquisite pleasure as long as by 
his sight, his hearing, his touch, his every 
sense, he is made aware of the presence of the 
beautiful boy, so that he would love nothing 
better than to cling to his side unceasingly: 
but as for the object of that attachment, what 
kind of solace, I ask, or what pleasure, can he 
possibly receive in return to save him during 
all that long companionship from reaching the 


very extremity of disgust ; when he has ever 
before his eyes the bloomless countenance of 
age, and that too with all those accompani 
ments which we cannot hear even spoken of 
without repugnance, much less feel actually 
forced upon us by an ever-pressing necessity ; 
when he has, moreover, on every occasion, and 
in all company, to be on his guard against cen 
sorious observation ; when he has to listen 
either to unseasonable and extravagant praises, 
or, with equal probability, to unendurable re 
proaches from his lover s sober caprice, while 
from his drunken excess he may expect an 
unveiled and loathsome licentiousness of speech, 
which is not only intolerable, but infamous to 

And if, during the continuance of his passion, 
a lover is at once hurtful and disgusting, as 
surely, when his passion is over, will he be for 
the remainder of his life a traitor to one whom 
with many promises, aye and many an oath 
241 and prayer, he could scarcely prevail on to 
endure the present burden of his society in 
hope of future advantage. Yes, I say, at the 
time when payment should be made, he finds 
that he has received within his breast a new 
ruler and a new lord, to wit, wisdom and tem 
perance, in the stead of passion and madness, 
and that he is become a new man, without his 
favourite being conscious of the change. So 
the youth demands a return for former favours, 
and reminds him of all that has passed between 
them in word and deed, under the impression 

rHsEDRUS 37 

that he is speaking to the same person. But 
the other, for very shame, dares neither avow 
the alteration that has come upon him, nor can 
he bring himself to fulfil the oaths and pro 
mises of that former insensate reign, now that 
wisdom and temperance have set their throne 
in his heart, for fear that, if he should act as 
he did before, he might become like what he 
was before, and return back again to his old 
condition. And thus it is that he is a run 
away, and of necessity a defrauder, where once 
he was a lover, and in the turning of a pot 
sherd is changed from pursuer into pursued : 
for the youth is compelled to give chase with 
indignation and curses, having alas ! been 
ignorant from the very first, that he ought not 
to bestow his favours on one who was in love, 
and of consequence a madman, but much rather 
on one who did not love and retained his 
senses ; as in the former case he would have 
to surrender himself to a faithless, peevish, 
jealous wretch, who would do harm to his sub 
stance, and harm to his bodily^ habit, but far 
the greatest harm to the cultivation of his soul, 
than which in the eyes both of gods and men 
there neither is nor ever will be aught more 
dearly prized. Think deeply, my beautiful boy, 
on the words I have spoken, and remember that 
a lover s friendship is no attachment of good will, 
but that with an appetite which lusts for repletion, 

As wolves love lambs, so lovers love their loves. 
Ah PhaDdrus, the very thing I dreaded ! You 


must not expect to hear another word from me, 
but be content that my speech should termin 
ate here. 

Ph. Why, Socrates, I thought it was only 
half finished, and that it would have quite as 
much to say in supporting the claim of the 
unimpassioned suitor, and enumerating the 
advantages which he has to offer in oppo 
sition. How is it then that you are leaving off 

Soc. Did you not observe, my learned friend, 
that I had already got beyond dithyrambics, 
and was giving utterance to epics, and that too, 
while engaged in blaming ? Pray what do you 
imagine will become of me, if I commence a 
panegyric ? don t you know that of a certainty 
I shall be lifted into ecstasy by the nymphs 
to whose influence you have designedly exposed 
me ? For fear then of such a fate, I tell you 
in a single word, that for all the evil I have 
spoken of the one, I attribute just the opposite 
good to the other. And what need of a pro 
tracted discourse, when enough has been said 
upon both sides ? And thus my tale will meet 
242 with that reception which it deserves : and for 
myself I will cross the stream, and go home before 
you force me into something more serious still. 

Ph. Not yet, Socrates, not till the heat of 
the day is past. Don t you see that the sun is 
already near standing still at high noon, as 
they phrase it ? so pray wait, and let us talk 
over together what has been said, and return 
home as soon as it becomes cool. 


Soc. You are a strange person with your 
speeches, Ph^drus ; you quite amaze me. I 
do believe, that of all the speeches that have 
been composed during your lifetime, a greater 
number owe their existence to you than to any 
other person in the world, whether they be of 
your own composition, or extorted from some 
one else by fair means or foul. If we except 
Simmias of Thebes, there is no one who will 
bear competition with you. And now again I 
believe we shall find another speech which will 
have to thank you for its delivery. 

Ph. No bad tidings these, certainly; but 
how is this the case, and what speech do you 


Soc. Just as I was about to cross the river, 
I was made aware of my divine monitor s 
wonted sign now it never occurs save to 
deter me from something or other I am in 
tending to do and methought therefrom I 
heard \ voice from this very spot, forbidding 
me to depart hence till I had purified myself, 
as though I had been guilty of some offence 
against Heaven. Now,, you must know, 1 
possess something of prophetic skill, though no 
very great amount, but, like indifferent writers, 
just enough for my own purposes. And thus 
it is that I have now at last a clear perception 
of my error. I say at last, because I can 
assure you, my good friend, that the soul too 
is in some sort prophetic. For mine pricked 
me some time ago, as I was uttering that 
speech, and my face, as Ibycus says, was 

40 PH.&DRUS 

darkened for fear lest I might be purchasing 
honour on earth by some offence at the high 
court of heaven. But now I have discovered 
my sin. 

Ph. And pray what was it ? 

Soc. That was a shocking, shocking speech 
which you brought here yourself, Phaedrus, and 
so was the one you forced me to utter. 

Ph. In what way were they shocking ? 

Soc. They were foolish, and somewhat im 
pious withal ; and what can be more shocking 
than this ? 

Ph. Nothing, if your charge be a true one. 

Soc. And is it not ? Don t you believe 
Love to be the son of Aphrodite, and a god ? 

Ph. He is said to be so, certainly. 

Soc. Certainly not by Lysias, nor by that 
speech of yours which found utterance through 
my lips after they had been bewitched by you. 
- No, if Love be, as indeed he is, a god, or of 
godly sort, he cannot be aught that is evil ; yet 
as such he is represented in both our speeches. 
This, therefore, is the offence they were guilty 
of with regard to Love ; and not only this, but 
with a naivete that is highly amusing, though 
they do not utter a single sound or true word 
243 throughout, they yet talk as gravely as if they 
were of consequence, on the strength, it may 
be, of expecting to impose upon some poor 
simpletons, and win a fair name among them. 
I therefore, for my part, Phaedrus, must of 
necessity purify myself. And for all who sin 
in matter of legends, there is an ancient form 


of purification with which Stesichorus was 
acquainted, though Homer was not. For 
when he was deprived of his eyesight for 
maligning Helen, he was not ignorant, like 
Homer, of the cause, but a true votary of the 
Muses, he learnt his fault, and straightway sang 

False was my tale unpassed the rolling sea, 
And Troy s proud turrets never viewed by thee. 

And so, having composed all his palinode, as 
it is called, he immediately recovered his sight. 
I, however, will be wiser than either of those 
bards in one particular. Ere any evil befall 
me for my defamation of Love, I will offer 
him my palinode by way of atonement, with 
my head bare, and no longer, as before, 
muffled up for shame. 

Ph. You could not have said anything that 
would give me greater pleasure than this. 

Soc. I believe you, my good friend ; for you 
feel as well as I do, how shameless was the 
tone of both our speeches. For just conceive 
their being overheard by some gentleman of 
mild and generous feeling, who is either now, 
or has at some past time of his life been, 
enamoured of a youth of congenial disposition. 
If, for instance, he were to hear us maintain 
ing that on slight provocation lovers contract 
violent animosities, and make both jealous and 
dangerous companions to their favourites, do 
you think it possible that he could help fancy 
ing himself listening to persons who had been 
bred among sailors, and had never witnessed 


an ingenuous passion, and would he not, think 
you, be very far from admitting the justice of 
our censures on love ? 

Ph. I don t doubt it, Socrates. 

Soc. Out of delicacy then to such a lover as 
this, and for fear of the god of love himself, I 
desire by a fresh and sweet discourse to wash 
out, so to speak, the brackish taste of the stuff 
we have just heard. And I would recommend 
Lysias too to make all the haste he can to 
prove that, under similar circumstances, the 
suit of a lover should be preferred to that of 
one who is not in love. 

Ph. You need have no doubt of this being 
done, Socrates. If you deliver your panegyric 
on love, Lysias most certainly shall not escape 
composing another on the same side. 

Soc. Well, I can trust you for this, so long 
as you are the man you are. 

Ph. Speak on then with confidence. 

Soc. But where, I want to know, is the boy 
to whom I addressed my former speech, as I 
should be sorry for him to run away without 
hearing this as well, and favour in his haste the 
suit of an unimpassioned wooer. 

Ph. Here he is by your side, quite ready for 
you when you want him. 

Soc. You must understand then, my beautiful 
boy, that my late speech was the production of 
244 the gay Phaedrus, son of the fame - loving 
Pythocles, the nursling of the myrtle-beds of 
Myrrhinus ; but that I am indebted for the 
one I am now about to deliver to the inspired 


bard Stesichorus, son of the holy Euphemus, 
bred at Himera in the mysteries of love. Now, 
it must begin on this wise : 

False is the tale which says that when a 
lover is present, favour ought rather to be 
shown to one, who is no lover, on the score, 
forsooth, of the one being mad and the other 
sane. For if it were true, without exception, 
that madness is an evil, there would be no 
harm in the assertion ; but, as it is, we owe our 
greatest blessings to madness, if only it be 
granted by Heaven s bounty. For the pro 
phetess at Delphi, you are well aware, and the 
priestesses of Dodona, have in their moments 
of madness done great and glorious service to 
the men and the cities of Greece, but little or 
none in their sober mood. And if we were to 
speak of the Sibyl and all others, that by 
exercise of inspired divination have told before 
hand many things to many men, and thereby 
guided them aright in their future courses, we 
should run to a great length in telling only 
what every one knows. There is one fact, 
however, to which it would be worth our while 
solemnly to appeal ; I mean that, in the opinion 
of the name-givers of ancient times, madness 
was no disgrace or reproach ; else they would 
never have attached this very name to that 
most glorious art whereby the future is dis 
cerned. No, it was because they judged of it 
as a glorious thing when inspired by Heaven s 
grace, that they gave it the name of /uui i/oj ; 
it is only the vulgar taste of a later age, that by 


inserting the tau has made it yuavTt/o) instead. 
Since you will find, in like manner, that the 
investigation of the future, which is carried on 
by people in their senses through the medium 
of birds and other signs, received at first the 
name of oiovoib-Ti/cr), inasmuch as by means of 
thought, men furnished themselves out of their 
own minds with intelligence and information ; 
but moderns, not content with this word, gave 
it dignity with their long o, and called it oiWi- 
CTTI/O}. As much then as divination is a more 
perfect and a more precious thing than augury 
both in name and efficiency, so much more 
glorious, by the testimony of the ancients, is 
madness than sober sense, the inspiration of 
Heaven than the creation of men. Again, for 
those sore plagues and dire afflictions, which 
you are aware lingered in certain families as 
the wraith of some old ancestral guilt, madness 
devised a remedy, after it had entered into the 
heart of the proper persons, and to the proper 
persons revealed its secrets ; for it fled for 
refuge to prayer and services of the gods, and 
thence obtaining purifications and atoning rites 
made its possessor whole for time present and 
time to come, by showing him the way of 
escape from the evils that encompassed him, if 
245 only he were rightly frenzied and possessed. 
And thirdly, there is a possession and a mad 
ness inspired by the Muses, which seizes upon 
a tender and a virgin soul, and, stirring it up 
to rapturous frenzy, adorns in ode and other 
verse the countless deeds of elder time for the 


instruction of after ages. But whosoever with 
out the madness of the Muses comes to knock 
at the doors of poesy, from the conceit that 
haply by force of art he will become an efficient 
poet, departs with blasted hopes, and his poetry, 
the poetry of sense, fades into obscurity before 
the poetry of madness. 

Such, and yet more, are the glorious results 
I can tell you of as proceeding from a madness 
inspired by the gods. Let us not therefore 
regard with apprehension the particular result 
we are considering, nor be perplexed and 
frightened by any arguments into the belief 
that we ought to select the sensible rather 
than the enraptured man as our friend. No, 
our opponent must not carry off the palm of 
victory till he has likewise made it evident, 
that for no good is love sent from heaven to 
lover and beloved. With us, on the other 
hand, rests the proof that such a madness as 
this is given by God to man for his highest 
possible happiness. Now my proof, I am 
aware, will meet with no credit from the subtle 
disputant, but in the eyes of the truly wise it 
will be convincing. First of all then I must 
investigate the truth with regard to the nature 
of the soul, both human and divine, by observ 
ing its conditions and powers. And thus do I 
begin my demonstration. 

Every soul is immortal for whatever is in 
perpetual motion is immortal. Now the thing 
which moves another and is by another moved, 
as it may cease to be moved, may cease also 


to live ; it is only that which moves itself, 
inasmuch as it never quits itself, that never 
ceases moving, but is to everything else that is 
moved a source and beginning of motion. Now 
a beginning is uncreate ; for everything that is 
created must be created from a beginning, but 
a beginning itself from nothing whatever : for 
if a beginning were created from anything, it 
would not be a beginning. Again, since it is 
uncreate, it must also of necessity be inde 
structible. For if a beginning be destroyed, it 
can neither itself be at any time created from 
anything, nor can anything else be created 
from it, if, as is evidently true, everything must 
be created from a beginning. Thus we see 
then that that which is self-moved is the be 
ginning of motion, and as being such can 
neither be created nor destroyed ; else must 
all the universe and all creation collapse and 
come to a standstill, and never at any time 
find that whereby they may be again set in 
motion and come into being. And now that 
that which is moved by itself has been found 
to be immortal, none will hesitate to assert that 
this power of self-motion is implied in the very 
essence and definition of a soul. For every 
body which receives motion from without we 
call soulless ; but that, which receives motion 
from within of itself, we say is possessed of 
soul, as though in this lay the soul s very 
246 nature. And if it be true, that that which is 
self- moved is nothing else than the soul, it 
follows of necessity that the soul must be a 


thing both uncreate and immortal. For its 
immortality let this suffice. 

In considering its form let us proceed in the 
following manner. To explain what the soul 
is, would be a long and most assuredly a god 
like labour ; to say what it resembles, is a 
shorter and a human task. Let us attempt 
then the latter ; let us say that the soul re- 
sembles the combined efficacy of a pair of 
w i iiged steeds and a charioteer! Now the 
horse s and drivers of the ^ods are all both 
good themselves and of good extraction, but 
the character and breed of all others is mixed. 
In the first place, with us men the supreme 
ruler has a pair of horses to manage, and then 
of these horses he finds one generous and of 
generous breed, the other of opposite descent 
and opposite character. And thus it neces 
sarily follows that driving in our case is no 
easy or agreeable work. We must at this 
point endeavour to express what we mean 
respectively by a mortal and an immortal 
animal. All that is soul presides over all that 
is without soul, and patrols all heaven, now 
appearing in one form and now in another. 
When it is perfect and fully feathered, it roams 
in upper air, and regulates the entire universe ; 
but the soul that has lost its feathers is carried 
down till it finds some solid resting-place ; and 
when it has settled there, when it has taken to 
itself, that is, an earthly body, which seems 
capable of self-motion, owing to the power of 
its new inmate, the name of animal is given to 


the whole ; to this compound, I mean, of soul 
and body, with the addition of the epithet 
mortal. The immortal, on the other hand, has 
received its name from the conclusion of no 
human reasoning ; but without having either 
seen or formed any adequate conception of a 
god, we picture him to ourselves as an im 
mortal animal, possessed of soul and possessed 
of body, and of both in intimate conjunction 
from all eternity. But this matter I leave to 
be and to be told as Heaven pleases my task 
is to discover what is the cause that makes the 
feathers fall off the soul. It is something, I 
conceive, of the following kind. 

The natural efficacy of a wing is to lift up 
heavy substances, and bear them aloft to those 
upper regions which are inhabited by the race 
of the gods. And of all the parts connected 
with the body it has perhaps shared most 
largely (with the soul) in the divine nature. 
Now of this nature are beauty, wisdom, virtue, 
and all similar qualities. By these then the 
plumage of the soul is chiefly fostered and 
increased ; by ugliness, vice, and all such con 
traries, it is wasted and destroyed. Zeus, the 
great chieftain in heaven, driving a winged car, 
travels first, arranging and presiding over all 
things ; and after him comes a host of gods 
and inferior deities, marshalled in eleven divi- 
247 sions, for Hestia stays at home alone in the 
mansion of the gods ; but all the other ruling 
powers, that have their place in the number of 
the twelve, march at the head of a troop in 


the order to which they have been severally 
appointed. Now there are, it is true, many 
ravishing views and opening paths within the 
bounds of heaven, whereon the family of the 
blessed gods go to and fro, each in performance 
of his own proper work ; and they are followed 
by all who from time to time possess both will 
and power ; for envy has no place in the celestial 
choir. But whenever they go to feast and 
revel, they forthwith journey by an uphill path 
to the summit of the heavenly vault. Now the 
chariots of the gods being of equal poise, and 
obedient to the rein, move easily, but all others 
with difficulty; for they are burdened by the 
horse of vicious temper, which sways and sinks 
them towards the earth, if haply he has received 
no good training from his charioteer. Where 
upon there awaits the soul a crowning pain and 
agony. For those which we called immortal 
go outside when they are come to the topmost 
height, and stand on the outer surface of 
heaven, and as they stand they are borne 
round by its revolution, and gaze on the ex 
ternal scene. Now of that region beyond the 
sky no earthly bard has ever yet sung or ever 
will sing in worthy strains. But this is the 
fashion of it ; for sure I must venture to speak 
the truth, especially as truth is my theme. 
Real existence, colourless, formless, and in 
tangible, visible only to the intelligence which 
sits at the helm of the soul, and with which the 
family of true science is concerned, has its 
abode in this region. The mind then of deity, 


as it is fed by intelligence and pure science, 
and the mind of every soul that is destined to 
receive its due inheritance, is delighted at seeing 
the essence to which it has been so long a 
stranger, and by the light of truth is fostered 
and made to thrive, until, by the revolution of 
the heaven, it is brought round again to the 
same point. And during the circuit it sees 
distinctly absolute justice, and absolute temper 
ance, and absolute science ; not such as they 
appear in creation, nor under the variety of 
forms to which we nowadays give the name of 
realities, but the justice, the temperance, the 
science, which exist in that which is real and 
essential being. And when in like manner it 
has seen all the rest of the world of essence, 
and feasted on the sight, it sinks down again 
into the interior of heaven, and returns to its 
own home. And on its arrival, the charioteer 
takes his horses to the manger, and sets before 
them ambrosia, and gives them nectar to drink 
248 with it. Such is the life of the gods ; but of 
the other souls, that which follows a god most 
closely and resembles him most nearly, succeeds 
in raising the head of its charioteer into the 
outer region, and is carried round with the 
immortals in their revolution, though sore en 
cumbered by its horses, and barely able to 
contemplate the real existences ; while another 
rises and sinks by turns, his horses plunging so 
violently that he can discern no more than a 
part of these existences. But the common 
herd follow at a distance, all of them indeed 


burning with desire for the upper world, but, 
failing to reach it, they make the revolution in 
the moisture of the lower element, trampling on 
one another, and striking against one another, in 
their efforts to rush one before the other. Hence 
ensues the extremest turmoil and struggling 
and sweating ; and herein, by the awkward 
ness of the drivers, many souls are maimed, and 
many lose many feathers in the crush ; and all 
after painful labour go away without being 
blessed by admission to the spectacle of truth, 
and thenceforth live on the food of mere 

And now will I tell you the motives of this 
great anxiety to behold the fields of truth. The 
suitable pasturage for the noblest portion of 
the soul is grown on the meadows there, and 
it is the nature of the wing, which bears aloft 
the soul, to be fostered thereby ; and moreover, 
there is an irrevocable decree, that if any soul 
has followed a god in close companionship and 
discerned any of the true essences, it shall con 
tinue free from harm till the next revolution, 
and if it be ever thus successful, it shall be ever 
thus unharmed : but whenever, from inability 
to follow, it has missed that glorious sight, and, 
through some mishap it may have encountered, 
has become charged with forgetfulness and 
vice, and been thereby so burdened as to shed 
its feathers and fall to the earth, in that case 
there is a law that the soul thus fallen be not 
planted in any bestial nature during the first 
generation, but that if it has seen more than 


others of essential verity, it pass into the germ 
of a man who is to become a lover of wisdom, 
or a lover of beauty, or some votary of the 
Muses and Love ; if it be of second rank, it is 
to enter the form of a constitutional ruler, a 
warrior, or a man fitted for command ; the 
third will belong to a politician, or economist, 
or merchant ; the fourth, to a laborious pro 
fessor of gymnastics, or some disciple of the 
healing art ; the fifth will be possessed by a 
soothsayer, or some person connected with 
mysteries ; the sixth will be best suited by the 
life of a poet or some other imitative artist ; 
the seventh, by the labour of an artisan or a 
farmer ; the eighth, by the trade of a sophist 
or a demagogue ; and the ninth, by the lot of 
an absolute monarch. And in all these various 
conditions those who have lived justly receive 
afterwards a better lot ; those who have lived 
unjustly, a worse. For to that same place 
from which each soul set out, it does not re- 
249 turn for ten thousand years ; so long is it 
before it recovers its plumage, unless it has 
belonged to a guileless lover of philosophy, or 
a philosophic lover of boys. But these souls, 
during their third millennium, if only they have 
chosen thrice in succession this form of exist 
ence, do in this case regain their feathers, and 
at its conclusion wing their departure. But all 
the rest are, on the termination of their first 
life, brought to trial ; and, according to their 
sentence, some go to the prison-houses beneath 
the earth, to suffer for their sins ; while others, 


by virtue of their trial, are borne lightly up 
wards to some celestial spot, where they pass 
their days in a manner worthy of the life they 
have lived in their mortal form. But in the 
thousandth year both divisions come back 
again to share and choose their second life, 
and they select that which they severally 
please. And then it is that a human soul 
passes into the life of a beast, and from a 
beast who was once a man the soul comes 
back into a man again. For the soul which 
has never seen the truth at all can never enter 
into the human form ; it being a necessary con 
dition of a man that he should apprehend 
according to that which is called a generic 
form, which, proceeding from a variety of per 
ceptions, is by reflection combined into unity. 
And this is nothing more nor less than a re 
collection of those things which in time past 
our soul beheld when it travelled with a god, 
and, looking high over what we now call real, 
lifted up its head into the region of eternal 
essence. And thus you see it is with justice 
that the mind of the philosopher alone recovers 
its plumage, for to the best of its power it is 
ever fixed in memory on that glorious spectacle, 
by the contemplation of which the godhead is 
divine. And it is only by the right use of 
such memorials as these, and by ever perfect 
ing himself in perfect mysteries, that a man 
becomes really perfect. But because such an 
one stands aloof from human interests, and is 
rapt in contemplation of the divine, he is taken 


to task by the multitude as a man demented, 
because the multitude do not see that he is by 
God inspired. 

It will now appear what conclusion the whole 
course of our argument has reached with regard 
to the fourth kind of madness, with which a 
man is inspired whenever, by the sight of beauty 
in this lower world, the true beauty of the world 
above is so brought to his remembrance that he 
begins to recover his plumage, and feeling new 
wings longs to soar aloft ; but the power failing 
him gazes upward like a bird, and becomes 
heedless of all lower matters, thereby exposing 
himself to the imputation of being crazed. And 
the conclusion is this, that of all kinds of en 
thusiasm this is the best, as well in character 
as in origin, for those who possess it, whether 
fully or in part ; and further, that he who loves 
beautiful objects must partake of this madness 
before he can deserve the name of lover. For 
though, as I said before, every man s soul has 
by the law of his birth been a spectator of 
eternal truth, or it would never have passed 
250 into this our mortal frame, yet still it is no easy 
matter for all to be reminded of their past by 
their present existence. It is hot easy either 
for those who, during that struggle I told you 
of, caught but a brief glimpse of upper glories, 
nor for those who, after their fall to this world, 
were so unfortunate as to be turned aside by 
evil associations into the paths of wickedness, 
and so made to forget that holy spectacle. 
Few, few only are there left, with whom the 


world of memory is duly present. And these 
few, whenever they see here any resemblance 
of what they witnessed there, are struck with 
wonder, and can no longer contain themselves, 
though what it is that thus affects them they 
know not, for want of sufficient discernment. 
Now in the likenesses existing here of justice, 
and temperance, and all else which souls hold 
precious, there is no brightness ; but through 
the medium of dull dim instruments it is but 
seldom and with difficulty that people are en 
abled on meeting with the copies to recognise 
the character of the original. But beauty not 
only shone brightly on our view at the time 
when in the heavenly choir we, for our part, 
followed in the band of Zeus, as others in the 
bands of other gods, and saw that blissful sight 
and spectacle, and were initiated into that 
mystery which I fear not to pronounce the 
most blessed of all mysteries ; for we who 
celebrated it were perfect and untainted by the 
evil that awaited us in time to come, and per 
fect too, and simple, and calm, and blissful 
were the visions which we were solemnly 
admitted to gaze upon in the purest light, 
ourselves being no less pure, nor as yet en 
tombed in that which we now drag about with 
us and call the body, being fettered to it as an 
oyster to his shell. Excuse my so far indulg 
ing memory, which has carried me to a greater 
length than I intended, in my yearning for a 
happiness that is past. I return to beauty. 
Not only, as I said before, did she shine brightly 


among her fellows there, but when we came 
hither we found her, through the medium of 
our clearest sense, gleaming far more clearly 
than them all. For sight is the keenest of our 
bodily senses, though it fails of distinguishing 
wisdom. For terrible would be the passion 
inspired by her, or by any other of those lovely 
realities, if they exhibited to the eye of sense 
any such clear resemblance of themselves as is 
the image afforded by beauty. No, to beauty 
alone is the privilege given of being at once 
most conspicuous and most lovely. The man, 
it is true, whose initiation is of ancient date, or 
who has lost his purity here, is slow in being 
carried hence to the essential beauty of the 
upper world, when he sees that which bears its 
name in this. Accordingly, he feels no rever 
ence as he gazes on the beautiful object, but, 
abandoning himself to lust, attempts like a 
brute beast to gratify his appetite, and in his 
251 wanton approaches knows nor fear^ior shame 
at this unnatural pursuit of pleasure^ But when 
ever one who is fresh from those mysteries, who 
saw much of that heavenly vision, beholds in 
any godlike face or form a successful copy of 
original beauty, he first of all feels a shuddering 
chill, and there creep over him some of those 
terrors that assailed him in that dire struggle ; 
then, as he continues to gaze, he is inspired 
with a reverential awe, and did he not fear the 
repute of exceeding madness, he would offer 
sacrifice to his beloved as to the image of a 
god. Afterwards follow the natural results of 


his chill, a sudden change, a sweating and glow 
of unwonted heat. For he has received through 
his eyes the emanation of beauty, and has been 
warmed thereby, and his native plumage is 
watered. And by the warmth the parts where 
the feathers sprout are softened, after having 
been long so closed up by their hardness as to 
hinder the feathers from growing. But as soon 
as this nourishing shower pours in, the quill of 
the feather begins to swell, and struggles to 
-start up from the root, and spread beneath the 
whole surface of the soul ; for in old time the 
soul was entirely feathered. 

In this process therefore it boils and throbs 
all over, and exactly the same sensation which 
is experienced by children when cutting their 
teeth, a sensation of itching and soreness about 
their gums, is experienced by the soul of one 
who is beginning to put forth new wings ; it 
boils and is sore and tingles as it shoots its 
feathers. Whenever indeed by gazing on the 
beauty of the beloved object, and receiving 
from that beauty particles which fall and flow 
in upon it (and which are therefore called 
t/uepos, desire), the soul is watered and warmed, 
it is relieved from its pain, and is glad ; but as 
soon as it is parted from its love, and for lack 
of that moisture is parched, the mouths of the 
outlets, by which the feathers start, become so 
closed up by drought, that they obstruct the 
shooting germs ; and the germs being thus 
confined underneath, in company of the desire 
which has been infused, leap like throbbing 


arteries, and prick each at the outlet which is 
shut against it ; so that the soul, being stung 
all over, is frantic with pain. But then again 
it calls to mind the beautiful one, and rejoices. 
And both these feelings being combined, it is 
sore perplexed by the strangeness of its condi 
tion, and not knowing what to do with itself 
becomes frenzied, and in its frenzy can neither 
sleep by night, nor by day remain at rest, but 
runs to and fro with wistful look wherever it 
may expect to see the possessor of the beauty. 
: And after it has seen him, and drunk in fresh 
streams of desire, it succeeds in opening the 
stoppages which absence had made, and taking 
breath it enjoys a respite from sting and throe, 
and now again delights itself for the time being 
in that most delicious pleasure. And therefore, 
if it can help, it never quits the side of its 
252 beloved, nor holds any one of more account 
than him, but forgets mother, and brothers, 
and friends, and though its substance be wasting 
by neglect, it regards that as nothing, and of 
all observances and decorums, on which it 
prided itself once, it now thinks scorn, and 
is ready to be a slave and lie down as closely 
as may be allowed to the object of its yearnings ; 
for, besides its reverence for the possessor of 
beauty, it has found in him the sole physician 
for its bitterest pains. Now this affection, my 
beautiful boy you I mean to whom my speech 
is addressed is called by mortals Eros (Love); 
on hearing its name among the gods, your 
young wit will naturally laugh. There are put 


forth, if I mistake not, by certain Homerids, 
out of their secret poems, two verses on Eros, 
of which the second is quite outrageous, and 
not at all particularly metrical. Thus they 

Him mortals indeed call winged Eros, 

But immortals Pteros (Flyer), for his flighty nature. 

Now these verses you may believe or not 
believe, as you think proper ; but whatever is 
thought of them the cause of love, and the 
condition of lovers, is all the same, just such 
as has been here stated. 

Now, if it be one of the former followers of 
Zeus who is seized by love, he is able to bear in 
greater weight than others the burden of the 
wing- named god. But all who were in the 
service of Ares, and patrolled the heavens in 
his company, when they are taken captive by 
Love, and fancy themselves in aught injured 
by the object of their love, are thirsty of blood, 
and ready to immolate both themselves and 
their favourites. And so it is with the follower 
of the other gods. Every man spends his life 
in honouring and imitating to the best of his 
power that particular god of whose choir he 
was a member, so long as he is exempt from 
decay, and living his first generation here ; and 
in keeping with the bent thus acquired, he con 
ducts his intercourse and behaviour towards 
the beloved object, as well as all the world. 
Accordingly, each man chooses himself his 
love out of the ranks of beauty to suit his 


peculiar turn ; and then, as though his choice 
were his god, he builds him up for himself, and 
attires him like a holy image, for the purpose 
of doing him reverence, and worshipping him 
with ecstatic festival. They then that belong 
to Zeus seek to have for their beloved one who 
resembles Zeus in his soul. And so they look 
for a youth who is by nature a lover of wisdom, 
and fitted for command ; and when they have 
found one, and become enamoured of him, 
they strive all they can to make him truly such. 
And if they have never previously entered upon 
this task, they now apply themselves to it, both 
seeking instruction from every possible quarter, 
and searching in their own souls. And this 
endeavour to discover the nature of their patron 
253 d> by following the track in themselves, is 
attended with success, by reason of their being 
ever constrained to gaze upon their god un 
flinchingly ; and when they grasp him with 
their memory, they are inspired with his 
inspiration, and take from him their character 
and habits, so far as it is possible for man to 
partake of god. And attributing these bless 
ings to their beloved, they love him still more 
dearly than ever ; and whatever streams they 
may have drawn from Zeus, like the inspired 
draughts of the Bacchanals, they pour into 
their darling s soul, thereby making him re 
semble, as far as possible, the god whom 
they resemble themselves. Those again who 
followed in the train of Hera, search out a 
youth of kingly mould, and when he is found, 


act towards him in exactly the same manner 
as the former. And so it is with the adherents 
of Apollo, and all other gods. Walking 
themselves in the steps of their own proper 
god, they look for the youth whom they are to 
love to be of kindred nature ; and when they 
have gained such an one, both by imitation 
on their own part, and by urging and attuning 
the soul of their beloved, they guide him into 
the particular pursuit and character of that 
god, so far as they are severally able, not 
treating him with jealous or illiberal harshness, 
but using every endeavour to bring him into 
all possible conformity with themselves and 
the god whom they adore. So beautiful is the 
desire of those who truly love ; and if they 
accomplish their desire, so beautiful is the 
initiation, as I call it, into their holy mystery, 
and so fraught with blessing at the hand of the 
friend, whom love has maddened, to the object 
of the friendship, if he be but won. Now he 
who is won, is won in the following manner. 

As at the commencement of this account 1 
divided every soul into three parts, two of them 
resembling horses, and the third a charioteer, 
so let us here still keep to that division. Now 
of the horses one, if you remember, we said, 
was good, and the other bad ; but wherein 
consists the goodness of the one, and the 
badness of the other, is a point which, not 
distinguished then, must be stated now. That 
horse of the two which occupies the nobler 
rank, is in form erect and firmly knit, high- 


necked, hook-nosed, white-coloured, black-eyed; 
he loves honour with temperance and modesty, 
and, a votary of genuine glory, he is driven 
without stroke of the whip by voice and reason 
alone. The bad horse, on the other hand, is 
crooked, bulky, clumsily put together, with 
thick neck, short throat, flat face, black coat, 
gray and bloodshot eyes, a friend to all riot 
and insolence, shaggy about the ears, dull of 
hearing, scarce yielding to lash and goad 
united. Whenever therefore the driver sees 
the sight which inspires love, and his whole 
soul being thoroughly heated by sense, is sur 
charged with irritation and the stings of desire, 
the obedient horse, yielding then as ever to the 
254 check of shame, restrains himself from spring 
ing on the loved one ; but the other pays heed 
no longer to his driver s goad or lash, but 
struggles on with unruly bounds, and doing all 
violence to his yoke-fellow and master, forces 
them to approach the beautiful youth, and 
bethink themselves of the joys of dalliance. 
And though at first they resist him with 
indignation at the lawless and fearful crime he 
is urging, yet at last, when there, is no end to 
the evil, they move onward as he leads them, 
having yielded him submission and agreed to 
do his bidding. So they come up to the 
beautiful boy, and see his face all gleaming 
with beauty. But at the sight the driver s 
memory is carried back to the essence of 
beauty, and again he sees her by the side of 
Continence standing on a holy pedestal. And 


at the sight he shudders, and with a holy awe 
falls backward to the ground, and falling 
cannot help pulling back the reins so violently 
that he brings both the horses on their 
haunches, the one indeed willingly, because he 
is not resisting, but the rebel in spite of 
struggling. And when they are withdrawn to 
some distance, the former in his shame and 
ravishment drenches all the soul with sweat ; 
but the other, when he is recovered from the 
pain which the bit and the fall inflicted, and 
has with difficulty regained his breath, breaks 
out into passionate revilings, vehemently rail 
ing at his master and his comrade for their 
treacherous cowardice in deserting their ranks 
and agreement. And again he urges them, 
again refusing, to approach, and barely yields 
a reluctant consent when they beg to defer the 
attempt to another time. But soon as the 
covenanted time is come, though they affect 
forgetfulness, he reminds them of their engage 
ment, and plunging and neighing and dragging, 
he again obliges them to approach the beautiful 
youth to make the same proposals. And when 
they are near, he stoops his head and gets the 
bit between his teeth, and drags them on 
incontinently. But the driver experiences, 
though still more strongly, the same sensation 
as at first ; backward he falls like racers at the 
barrier, and with a wrench still more violent 
than before pulls back the bit from between 
the teeth of the riotous horse, thereby drench 
ing his jaws and railing tongue with blood : 


and bruising against the ground his legs and 
haunches, consigns him to anguish. But as 
soon as by this treatment oft repeated the evil 
horse is recovered from his vice, he follows 
with humbled steps the guidance of his driver, 
and at sight of the fair one is consumed with 
terror. So that then, and not till then, does it 
happen that the soul of the lover follows his 
beloved with reverence and awe. And the 
255 consequence is, that the youth being now 
worshipped with all the worship of a god by a 
lover who does not feign the passion, but feels 
it in his soul, and being himself by nature 
fondly inclined to his worshipper, even though 
haply in time past he may have been set 
against lovers by the remarks of his school 
fellows or others on the scandal of allowing 
their approaches, and is therefore disposed to 
reject his present wooer, yet now that the latter 
is thus changed he is led in course of time, by 
the instinct of his years, and the law of destiny, 
to admit him to familiarity. For surely it was 
never destined for the bad to be friends of the 
bad, or the good aught but friendly to the 
good. But when the advances have been 
accepted and speech and intercourse allowed, 
the affection of the lover being brought into 
near connection with the loved one, strikes him 
with wonder, as it compels him to feel that the 
friendship shown him by all the rest of his friends 
and relations put together is as nothing beside 
the love of his god-inspired friend. And if he 
continues long thus to indulge him, and allows 


him the closest contact both in gymnastic 
schools and other places of meeting, then it is 
that the stream of that effluence, to which Zeus 
when enamoured of Ganymedes gave the name 
of desire, pours upon the lover in a plenteous 
flood, and partly sinks within him, partly flows 
off him when he is full ; and just as a wind or 
a noise rebounds from smooth and hard sub 
stances and is carried back again to the place 
from which it came ; so the tide of beauty 
passes back into the beautiful boy through his 
eyes, the natural channel into his soul ; and 
when it is come there and has fledged it anew, 
it waters the outlets of the feathers, and forcing 
them to shoot up afresh fills the soul of the 
loved one as well as that of his lover with 
love. He is in love therefore, but with whom 
he cannot say ; nay, what it is that is come 
over him he knows not, neither can he tell, but 
like one who has caught a disease in the eye 
from the diseased gaze of another, he can 
assign no reason for the affection, but sees him 
self in his lover, as in a glass, without knowing 
who it is that he sees. And when they are to 
gether, he enjoys the same respite that his 
lover does from his anguish ; but when they are 
parted, he yearns for him as he himself is 
yearned for, since he holds in his bosom love s 
reflected image, love returned. He calls it, 
however, and believes it to be not love but 
friendship, albeit, he feels the same desire as the 
other does, though in a feebler degree, for the 
sight, the touch, the kiss, the embrace. And con- 


sequently, as might be expected, his conduct 
henceforward is as follows. When they are 
lying side by side, the lover s unbridled horse 
has much to say to its driver, and claims as 
256 the recompense of many labours a short enjoy 
ment ; but the vicious horse of the other has 
nothing to say, but burning and restless clasps 
the lover and kisses him as he would kiss a 
dear friend, and when they are folded in each 
other s embrace, is just of such a temper as 
not for his part to refuse indulging the lover in 
any pleasure he might request to enjoy ; but 
his yoke-fellow, on the other hand, joins the 
driver in struggling against him with chastity 
and reason. Should it appear then that the 
better part of their nature has succeeded in 
bringing both the lover and loved into a life of 
order and philosophy, and established its own 
ascendency, in bliss and harmony they live out 
their existence here, being masters of them 
selves and decorous before the world, having 
enslaved that portion of the soul wherein vice 
is contained, and liberated that where virtue 
dwells ; and at last when they come to die, 
being winged and lightened, they have in one 
of their three truly Olympic combats achieved 
the prize, than which no greater good can 
either human prudence or godly madness be 
stow on man. But if they have given in to 
a coarser habit of life, and one unfriendly to 
wisdom, though not to honour, it may well 
happen that in a moment of drunkenness or 
like abandonment, those two unruly beasts will 

rn.-EDRUs 67 

surprise the souls off their guard, and bringing 
them together into one place will choose and 
consummate that practice which the world 
deems happy, and once consummated will for 
the future indulge in it, though sparingly, as 
doing what is not approved by all their mind. 
Dear, therefore, to each other, though not so 
dear as the former two, do these continue both 
while their love is burning and when it is ex 
tinct ; for they conceive themselves to have 
given and received the strongest pledges, 
which it were impious at any time to violate 
by becoming alienated. And in the end, 
without their wings it is true, but not without 
having started feathers, they go forth from the 
body, so that they carry off no paltry prize for 
their impassioned madness ; for there is a law 
that the paths of darkness beneath the earth 
shall never again be trodden by those who 
have so much as set their foot on the heaven- 
word road, but that walking hand in hand they 
shall live a bright and blessed life, and when 
they recover their wings^recover them together 
for their love s sake. 

So great and so godly, my beautiful boy, are 
the blessings which the affection of a lover 
will bestow. But the commerce of one who 
does not love, being alloyed with mortal prud 
ence, and dispensing only mortal and niggardly 
gifts, will breed in the soul of the loved one a 257 
sordidness which the vulgar laud as virtue, and 
doom it for nine thousand years to be tossed about 
the earth and under the earth without reason. 


Here, to thee, beloved Eros, fair and good as 
I can make it, I offer and duly pay a recant 
ation, composed perforce for sake of Phsedrus, 
both in phrase and other points, in a poetic 
strain. But oh vouchsafe me pardon for my 
former speech and indulgence for this, and of 
thy tender mercy neither take from me the art 
of love, which thou hast given me, nor cripple 
it in thy wrath, but grant that still more than 
ever I may find favour in the eyes of the fair. 
And, if in our former speech, Phaedrus and I 
said aught offensive to thee, set it to the 
account of Lysias as the father of the speech, 
and make him to cease from speeches of this sort, 
and turn him to philosophy, even as his brother 
Polemarchus is turned, in order that his lover 
also here before thee may no longer halt, as 
now, between two opinions, but heart and soul 
devote his life to love with philosophic talk. 

Ph. I join with you, Socrates, in praying 
that, if this lot be better for us, so it may be 
fall us. With regard to the speech, however, 
it has been long exciting my admiration, so 
much more beautiful have you made it than 
your former one ; so much more indeed that I 
am afraid I shall find Lysias making but a poor 
figure, if indeed he be willing to match it with 
another of his own. Which I have my doubts 
about. For it was only the other day that one 
of our public men in an attack he was making 
upon him, reproached him on this very score, 
and throughout his attack kept calling him a 
speech-writer. So that perhaps he may be led 


by a care for his own reputation to desist from 
the practice. 

Soc. Your notion is an absurd one, my 
young gentleman, and you are greatly mistaken 
in your favourite, if you imagine him to be a 
person so readily scared. Perhaps too you 
believe that his assailant meant what he said. 

Ph. He certainly seemed to do so, Socrates ; 
and besides, you must know as well as I do, 
that men of the greatest influence and con 
sideration in a state are ashamed of writing 
speeches, and leaving behind them compositions 
of their own, for fear of obtaining with posterity 
the reputation and name of sophists. 

Soc. It has escaped you, Phaedrus, that the 
phrase * A charming bend, is derived from 
that long and wearisome bend in the Nile ; 
and so it escapes you that under this affected 
dislike, our most self-satisfied statesmen are 
especially fond of composing speeches, and 
leaving behind them writings ; so much so in 
deed, that whenever they write a speech, they 
conceive such an affection for its supporters, 
that they write down in an additional clause at 
its head the names of those who on each 
occasion accord it their approval. 

Ph. Howdoyoumean? I don tunderstandyon. 

Soc. Don t you understand that at the be 
ginning of a statesman s writing the name of 258 
its supporter is written first ? 

Ph. How so ? 

Soc. Approved. Thus, if I am not mis 
taken, runs the writing: Approved by the 

7 o PH&DRUS 

council, or people, or both. And the proposer, 
our speech-writer to wit, naming his worthy 
self with all pomp and panegyric, proceeds to 
make a speech, and to show off his wisdom to 
his supporters, not unfrequently by the com 
position of a very long writing. Or, do you 
conceive such a production as this to be some 
thing different from a written speech ? 

Ph. No, certainly I don t. 

Soc. Well, if the speech stands, our poet 
goes home from his theatre rejoicing ; but if it 
be erased, and he debarred from speech-writing, 
and the dignity of authorship, he goes into 
mourning, himself and his friends. 

Ph. So they do. 

Soc. Obviously not as disdaining the practice, 
but as viewing it with admiration. 

Ph. Precisely. 

Soc. Again, whenever an orator or a mon 
arch has been found equal to the task of 
assuming the authority of a Lycurgus, or a 
Solon, or a Darius, and becoming a speech- 
writer for immortality in a state, does not both 
he himself, during his lifetime, look upon him 
self in the light of a god, and do not after ages 
conceive the same opinion of him, from a sur 
vey of his written works ? 

Ph. To be sure they do. 

Soc. Do you believe then that a person of 
this sort, however strong his antipathy to 
Lysias, would attack him simply on the score 
of being a writer ? 

Ph. It is not at any rate to be expected that 


he would from what you say ; for in so doing 
he would to all appearance be attacking his 
own particular fancy. 

Soc. It must then, I think, be universally 
acknowledged, that there is no disgrace in the 
mere fact of writing speeches. 

Ph. How can there be ? 

Soc. But the disgrace, I imagine, commences 
when they are composed not well, but awk 
wardly and ill. 

Ph. Obviously. 

Soc. What then is the character of good and 
bad writing ? Ought we, think you, Phzedrus, 
to take on this matter the evidence of Lysias, 
and of every one else who has either written or 
means to write a work, political or otherwise, 
either in metre as a poet, or without metre as a 
prose-writer ? 

Ph. Do you ask if we ought ? Why what 
other object can a man be said to live for, 
than the enjoyment of such pleasures as these ? 
Surely not for those which must be preceded 
by pain, before they can be so much as en 
joyed, which is the case you know with most 
of our bodily pleasures, so that they have been 
justly denominated servile. 

Soc. Well, we have time it seems to spare ; 
and moreover I cannot help fancying that the 
cicalas, while chirping and talking together over 
our heads, as is their wont in the heat of the 
day, have their eyes upon you and me. Should 259 
they see us then, like common men, falling 
asleep instead of conversing in the middle of 


the day, and abandoning ourselves in laziness of 
soul to their lulling music, they would regard 
us with merited scorn, and fancy themselves 
looking upon some poor slaves, who had 
sought the refuge of their retreat, to take like 
sheep a mid -day nap by the waters of their 
well. But if they see us proceeding with our 
conversation, and sailing past them unenchanted 
by their siren strains, they may perhaps in 
their admiration confer on us that boon, which 
they have from the gods to bestow upon men. 

Ph. What boon is that ? I do not remem 
ber to have heard of it. 

Soc. A lover of the Muses is the last person 
who should be ignorant of such matters as this. 
The story goes, that once upon a time these 
cicalas were men, of a race that lived before 
the birth of the Muses. But when the Muses 
were born, and song appeared, it came to pass 
that some of that race were so transported with 
pleasure, that as they sang they forgot to eat 
and drink, till death came upon them unawares. 
From them it is that the race of the cicalas are 
sprung, having received the boon from the 
Muses, that they should need no nourishment 
after they were come into the world, but spend 
their time in singing, without food or drink, 
from the moment of their birth to the day of 
their death, when they are to repair to the 
Muses, and tell each of them of their wor 
shippers here below. Terpsichore they tell of 
those who have honoured her in the dance, 
and thus make them dearer to her than before : 


Erato they tell of her votaries in love, and so 
to each of the other sisters they make their 
report according to the character of her proper 
worship. But to Calliope the eldest, and 
Urania the second of the nine, they bear tidings 
of those who pass their lives in philosophic 
study and observance of their peculiar music, 
these we know being the Muses who, having 
heaven for their special sphere, and words both 
divine and human, pour forth the gladdest 
strains. You see therefore, Phoedrus, there 
are many reasons why we should talk and not 
slumber in the middle of the day. 
Ph. Indeed there are. 

Soc. Let us then, resuming the subject which 
we proposed to ourselves for consideration, 
examine in what consists a good or a bad 
discourse, whether spoken or written. 
Ph. Certainly. 

Soc. Is it not an essential condition of a 
good and fine speech being made, that the 
mind of the speaker be acquainted with the 
truth of the matter he is going to discuss ? 

Ph. Why, I have heard men say on this 
subject, Socrates, that there is no need at all 
for the intended orator to learn what is really 260 r 
just, but only what is likely to be considered \f 
just by the multitude who are to sit as judges ; 
nor, again, what is really good and honourable, 
but only what will appear so ; for by such 
appearances, they add, is persuasion effected, 
and not by truth. 

Soc. Sure we must not cast away a saying, 


Ph^edrus, which wise men have uttered, but 
rather examine whether there be anything in it 
or not. And so we must not refuse a hearing 
to your present remark. 

Ph. Certainly not. 

Soc. Let us consider it then in the following 
point of view. Suppose I were to set about 
persuading you to buy a horse for the purposes 
of war, but neither of us knew what a horse 
was ; only this much I did happen to know, 
that my friend Phaedrus believed a horse to be 
that domestic animal which has the longest ears. 

Ph. Why, it would be absurd, Socrates. 

Soc. Wait a moment. What if I were to 
proceed in a tone of serious persuasion, and 
compose a panegyric on the ass, all the while 
calling him a horse, and saying that he was a 
creature of infinite value, not only for domestic 
purposes, but also on military service, as he 
was both convenient to fight from, and capable 
of bringing up baggage, and of being made 
useful in a thousand other ways ? 

Ph. Well, there can be no doubt of its being 
utterly absurd now, at any rate. 

Soc. Is it not better though to. be absurd, 
than a dangerous and malevolent friend ? 

Ph. Doubtless it is. 

Soc. Whenever then an orator, who is ignor 
ant of good and evil, finds a people in a state 
of similar ignorance, and takes upon himself to 
persuade them by passing an eulogium, not 
upon a poor ass as though it were a horse, but 
upon evil as though it were good ; and when, 


by having studied and learned the popular 
opinions, he has succeeded in persuading them 
to do that which is evil instead of that which is 
good, what kind of fruit do you imagine his 
oratory will hereafter reap as the harvest of the 
seed she has sown ? 

Ph. No very good one, certainly. 
Soc. Is it not possible though, my good 
Pruedrus, that we have been somewhat too 
rough in our attack on rhetoric ? may she not 
turn upon us and say, What s all this trifling, 
ye wondrous wise ? I force no man to learn 
speaking without a knowledge of the truth ; on 
the contrary, if my advice be worth anything, 
he will acquire the truth before he comes to 
me. But what I do insist on is this, that with 
out my aid he will not be a whit the better 
able, for all his knowledge of truth, to persuade 
according to art. 

Ph. And do not you admit the justice of her 
plea ? 

Soc. I do, provided only the arguments 
which are coming up to attack her testify to 
her being an art. For methinks I hear the / 
rustle of certain arguments approaching, and 
protesting that she is an impostor, and no art 
at all, but an inartistic knack. But of speaking, 
says the Spartan, there neither is, nor ever 
shall be, genuine art without the grasp of truth. 
Ph. We must have your arguments, Socrates ; 
bring them here into court, and examine what 261 
it is they say, and how they say it. 

Soc. Hither then, fine creatures, and persuade 



Phoedrus, father of a fair progeny like you, that 
if he be not a competent philosopher, neither at 
any time will he be a competent speaker on 
any subject at all. And let Phaedrus reply. 

Ph. Put your questions. 

Soc. May not rhetoric in general be con 
sidered as a method of winning men s souls by 
means of words, not only in courts of law, and 
other public assemblies, but also in private 
conversation indifferently on matters great and 
small ; and is not its correct use held in equal 
honour whether the subject to which it is 
applied be trivial or important ? Or what have 
you heard say on the matter ? 

Ph. Why nothing at all of this kind, I can 
assure you. No, the courts of law are the 
especial sphere of rhetorical art, and it is also 
employed in addressing deliberative assemblies ; 
but I never heard of its extending further. 

Soc. What, have you only heard of the arts 
of speaking composed by Nestor and Ulysses, 
to while away their leisure before Troy ? and 
have you never heard of those by Palamedes ? 

Ph. No, nor of Nestor s either, unless you 
are making a Nestor of Gorgias, and a Ulysses 
of Thrasymachus or Theodorus. 

Soc. Possibly I am. However, to leave 
these gentlemen for the present, answer me 
this. In a court of justice, what is it that the 
contending parties do ? Contradict each other, 
do they not ? 

Ph. Precisely. 

Soc. On points of right and wrong ? 


/ //. Yes. 

Soc. And if a man does this by rule of art, 
he will make the same thing appear to the v 
same people to be at one time right, and at 
another, if he pleases, wrong. 

Ph. Of course. 

Soc. And so in a popular harangue he will 
make the public believe the same line of con 
duct to be at one time for their advantage, and 
at another time just the reverse. 

Ph. Certainly he will. 

Soc. But do we not also hear of the Eleatic 
Palamedes speaking by aid of art in such a 
manner that his hearers believed the same 
things to be at once like and unlike, one and 
many, at rest and in motion ? 

Ph. Undoubtedly we do. 

Soc. It appears, then, that the art of debate 
is not confined either to courts of law or popular 
assemblies, but that to everything that is said 
we are able to apply this single art, if art it is, 
by which we shall be enabled to make all things / 
appear similar that are capable of so appearing, 
and to drag to the light all such attempts in 
others, however dexterously concealed. 

Ph. I don t quite understand what you mean 
by this. 

Soc. My meaning will, I thiiiK, be apparent, 
if we conduct our inquiry thus. Is deception 
more generally practised in things which differ 262 
much or little ? 

/ //. In those which differ little. 

Soc. And you will get round, I conceive, 

7 8 PH&DRUS 

from one side to the other, with less chance of 
detection, by taking short steps than long ones. 

Ph. Unquestionably. 

Soc. If one man, then, would fain deceive 
another, without being deceived himself, he 
ought to be able to discriminate accurately the 
resemblances and differences of things. 

Ph. Nay, he must be able. 

Soc. But if he be ignorant of the true nature 
of a particular, thing, will he be in a condition 
to distinguish between a greater and less re 
semblance to it in other things ? 

Ph. Impossible. 

Soc. Whenever, therefore, people are de 
ceived, and form opinions wide of the truth, 
it is clear that the error has slid into their 
minds through the medium of certain resem 
blances to that truth. 

Ph. Such no doubt is generally the case. 

Soc. Is it possible, then, for a man ever to 
possess the art of bringing over the mind of 
another from truth to falsehood, by leading it 
from link to link in the chain of resemblances, 
or to escape such delusion himself, without 
having first arrived at an understanding of the 
true nature of each particular thing ? 

Ph. No, never. 

Soc. An art of speaking then, composed by 

one, who, without a knowledge of the truth, 

has entrapped men s opinions, will present, I 

conceive, but a sorry and inartistic appearance. 

., Ph. I apprehend so. 

Soc. Now, Phasdrus, what say you to our 


taking the speech of Lysias, which you have 
got in your hand, together with those of mine 
which followed, and looking for instances in 
them of what we maintain to be in accordance 
with, or in violation of, art ? 

/ //. I should like it of all things ; since there 
is a sort of baldness in our present way of 
treating the subject, arising from a want of 
proper examples. 

Soc. True, and by some lucky chance, as I 
take it, both the speeches were made to afford 
an example of the manner in which an author, 
who is himself acquainted with the truth, may 
for mere amusement lead his hearers away 
from it in discourse. And for my part, Phae- 
drus, I set this to the account of the deities of 
the spot ; or it may be that the ministers of the 
Muses, our songsters overhead, have breathed 
into us this happy gift. For sure I am that I 
at least am innocent of any art of speaking. 

Ph. Be it as you will only make your 
meaning clear. 

Soc. Well, then, read me out the beginning 
of Lysias s speech. 

Ph. With the state of my affairs you are 
acquainted, and how I expect advantage to us 
both from this arrangement you have heard. 
Now I claim not to be disappointed in my suit 
on the ground of my not happening to be your 
lover. For lovers repent. 

Soc. Stop we are to notice, are we not, any 
error or violation of art that our author commits ? 263 

Ph. We are. 

8o P 

Soc. Well, then, is it not obvious to all the 
world, that on certain points of this kind we 
are all agreed, on others all at variance ? 

Ph. I think I know what you mean ; but 
explain yourself more clearly. 

Soc. When a man uses the words iron or silver, 
do we not all understand by them the same things ? 

Ph. To be sure we do. 

Soc. But what happens when he talks of 
justice or virtue ? Do we not all start off at 
once in different directions, and quarrel both 
with one another and ourselves ? 

Ph. Too true. 

Soc. On some things, then, you allow we are 
agreed, in others not ? 

Ph. Just so. 

Soc. Now in which of these two classes of 
things is deception more easily practised ; and 
in which has rhetoric greater power ? 

Ph. Clearly in that in which we are liable to 
go wrong. 

Soc. Before handling, then, an art of rhe 
toric, a man ought in the first instance to have 
methodically distinguished between these two 
classes, and discovered some characteristic 
mark of each, of that in which men in general 
are of necessity in error, and of that where no 
such necessity exists. 

Ph. A fine generalisation certainly, Socrates, 
would he have devised who had seized on this 

Soc. And secondly, I imagine, when he 
comes to any particular case, he must not be 

PH&DRUS 8 1 

at fault, but perceive with rapidity in which of 
the two classes the subject of his intended re 
marks is contained. 
/ //. Exactly. 

Soc. Now what do you say to Love ? Are 
we to rank him in the debatable, or certain class? 
Ph. In the debatable, without a doubt. 
For how else do you think he would have 
allowed you to say all that you have just now 
said about him, making him out at one time to 
be a curse both to the lover and his favourite ; 
and then again their chiefest blessing ? 

Soc. Admirably said : but tell me this too 
for I, you must know, was in such an ecstatic 
state, that I do not quite remember did I 
give a definition of Love at the beginning o 
my speech ? 

Ph. Ay, that you did, and a wonderfully 
thorough one too. 

Soc. Alas for Lysias, son of Cephalus ! 
far less skilled do you make him in the art 
of speech-writing than the nymphs of our river 
and Pan the son of Hermes ; or am I altogether 
wrong, and did Lysias also, at the commence 
ment of his love -speech, compel us to form 
some one definite conception of love the con 
ception that he himself preferred and then 
proceed, in strict accordance with this concep 
tion, to arrange all the subsequent parts of his 
discourse till he brought it to a fitting conclusion ? 
Just let us read the opening sentence again. 

Ph. I will if you wish it, though what you 
are looking for is not there. 


Soc. Let us hear it, that we may take his 
own evidence on the point. 

Ph. l With the state of my affairs you are 
acquainted, and that I expect advantage to us 
264 both from this arrangement, you have heard. 
Now I claim not to be disappointed in my suit 
on the ground of my not belonging to the 
number of your lovers ; for they, indeed, repent 
of the benefits they have conferred as soon as 
they are released from their passion. 

Soc. Yes, we seem to be far indeed from 
discovering here what we are looking for, when 
we find our author not even starting from the 
beginning, but from the end of his subject, and 
essaying to get through his discourse like a 
swimmer on his back the wrong way foremost; 
for you see he commences with what the lover 
might be supposed to say to his favourite at the 
end, and not before the end, of his address. Or 
do you see nothing in my objection, Phoedrus, 
noble friend ? 

Ph. Yes, I must confess, Socrates, that what 
he is talking about is a natural conclusion of 
the subject. 

Soc. And what do you say to the rest ? Do 
not the several parts of his discourse appear to 
have been thrown together at random ? or do 
you see some necessity for the second sentence 
occupying the second place, or any other sen 
tence appearing in the position he has assigned 
it ? For my part, I must confess that he seems 
to me, in my ignoranc e, to have put down on 
paper, with a gentlemanly independence, what- 


ever came first into his head ; but you, perhaps, 
are aware of some law of composition which 
guided his sentences into that particular order. 
Ph. You are too good to suppose me capable 
of seeing through the design of a Lysias with 
so critical an eye. 

Soc. But this I think you will allow, that 
every speech ought to be put together like a 
living creature, with a body of its own, lacking 
neither head nor foot, but having both a middle 
and extremities in perfect keeping with one 
another and the whole. 
Ph. Undoubtedly. 

Soc. Examine, then, whether your friend s 
speech be composed on this principle or not, 
and you will find it just like the epigram which 
people say is inscribed on the tomb of Midas, 
the Phrygian. 

Ph. What is the epigram, and what is there 
peculiar about it ? 
Soc. It runs thus : 
I am a maiden of brass, and I lie upon Midas s 

tomb : 
Ever while water shall flow, and the trees of the 

forest shall bloom, 
Here will I stay on a grave that is watered with 

many a tear, 

Telling to all who pass by me that Midas is sepul 
chred here. 

Now, that it is utterly immaterial whether any 
line of this epigram be put first or last, you 
must, I should think, have observed. 

Ph. You make very merry with our speech, 


Soc. Well, Phcedrus, to spare your feelings, 
suppose we pass it by ; not but that I conceive 
it to contain a crowd of examples, which a man 
might study with advantage to himself, pro 
vided only he does not at all attempt to imitate 
them; and let us proceed to the other two 
speeches, for there was something in them, I 
265 imagine, well worthy the attention of those who 
wish to consider the subject of speaking. 

Ph. What sort of thing do you mean ? 

Soc. If I remember right, they were opposed 
to each other ; the one supporting the claims of 
the impassioned ; and the other, those of the 
unimpassioned suitor. 

Ph. And right manfully they did their work. 

Soc. I thought you were going to say, as the 
truth would warrant, right madly. However, 
this is the very point I was in quest of. We 
said that love was a madness, did we not ? 

Ph. We did. 

Soc. And that madness was of two kinds, 
the one produced by human disease, the other 
by an inspired departure from established 

Ph. Exactly. 

Soc. And the inspired we divided into 
four parts, and distributing them among four 
heavenly powers, we set down the madness of 
prophecy to the inspiration of Apollo ; of mys 
teries, to the inspiration of Dionysus ; to the 
Muses again we ascribed the madness of poesy ; 
and the fourth, to Aphrodite and Eros. And this 
last, the madness of love, we said was the best 


of all the four ; and expressing the affection of 
love by a strange kind of similitude, wherein we 
kept, I doubt not, some true principle in our 
sight, though haply we swerved into error on 
our path, we compounded a discourse not alto 
gether without plausibility, and sang a mythic 
hymn in seemly and pious adoration of my lord 
and thine, Phasdrus of Eros, the patron o 
beautiful boys. 

Ph. And one, I can assure you, whicl 
afforded me no slight pleasure to hear. 

Soc Let us now, by an examination of 1 
speech itself, discover how it was that it found 
means of passing from censure to praise. 
Ph. Well, and how was it ? 
Soc. You must know that I consider 
speech itself, in its general character, to be 
nothing more than a sportive effusion; 1 
throughout all that was thus casually uttered, 
there are two forms of method apparent whicl 
would well repay our attention, if we could but 
obtain a systematic view of their respective 

Ph. What are they, pray ? 
Soc. The first consists in comprehending at 
a glance, whenever a subject is proposed, a 1 
the widely scattered particulars connected witl 
it, and bringing them together under one general 
idea, in order that, by a precise definition, we 
may make every one understand what i s that 
at the time we are intending to discuss Anc 
this plan we just now, as you remember, adopte 
with regard to love : we defined its nature ; 


and whatever be the merit of the performance, 
certain it is that to that definition my speech 
owes its clearness and consistency. 

Ph. And what is your other method, So 
crates ? 

Soc. That, on the other hand, enables us to 
separate a general idea into its subordinate 
elements, by dividing it at the joints, as nature 
directs, and not attempting to break any limb 
in half, after the fashion of a bungling carver. 
And this plan was followed in my two speeches 
with regard to mental derangement. Just as 
266 from one body there proceed two sets of mem 
bers, called by the same name, but distinguished 
as right and left, so when my speeches had 
formed the general conception of mental de 
rangement, as constituting by nature one class 
within us, the speech which had to divide the 
left-hand portion desisted not from dividing it 
into smaller, and again smaller parts, till it 
found among them a kind of left-handed love, 
which it railed at with well-deserved severity ; 
while the other led us to the right-hand side of 
madness, where it discovered a love bearing 
indeed the same name as the former, but of an 
opposite and a godly sort, which it held up to 
be gazed at and lauded as the author of our 
greatest blessings. 

Ph. Perfectly true. 

Soc. Now, not only do I pursue myself, with 
all a lover s assiduity, these methods of decom 
posing and combining, but if ever I find any 
one else whom I judge capable of apprehending 


the one and the many as they are in nature, 
that man I follow behind, as though in the 
track of a god. And to all who are possessed 
of this power I have been in the habit of 
giving, whether rightly or wrongly, heaven 
knows, the name of dialecticians. But tell 
me, what is the proper name for the disciples 
of your school and Lysias s ? is yours that 
identical art of words by the use of which 
Thrasymachus and his compeers have not only 
become clever speakers themselves, but make 
such of all their pupils, who are willing to bring 
them presents, as though they were kings ? 

Ph. And men of kingly mould they are, 
though certainly not acquainted with that about 
which you are now inquiring. However, you 
appear to me to be quite right in calling this 
kind of method dialectical ; but the rhetorical, 
I take it, still eludes our grasp. 

Soc. Indeed ! a fine thing truly that must be 
which, not comprised in this, is yet apprehended 
by art. On no account must it be slighted by 
you and me come now, let us consider what 
it is that is left to rhetoric. 

Ph. Oh, you ll find plenty of it, I doubt not, 
Socrates, if you ll only look in the books written 
on the art of speech-making. 

Soc. True, and I am obliged to you for re 
minding me. We must have, in the first place, 
I think, an exordium delivered at the opening 
of the speech. This is what you mean is it 
not ? the refinements of the art ? 
Ph. Yes. 


Soc. And next we must have narration, they 
say, and evidence to back it, and thirdly proofs, 
and fourthly probabilities ; and there s con 
firmation, if I remember right, and after -con 
firmation to boot, according to that prime tricker- 
out of speeches who comes from Byzantium. 

Ph. Worthy Theodorus, eh? 

Soc. Exactly. He gives us rules too for 
267 refutation and after-refutation, both in charge 
and defence. But the Parian wonder, Evenus, 
we must not leave in the background, who was 
the first to discover sub - intimation and by- 
panegyric; nay, they tell me he repeats his 
by-censures in verse, to aid the memory. So 
clever is he. Can we pass over in silence 

/either Tisias and Gorgias, who were enabled to 
see that the probable ought to be more highly 
prized than the true; who make small things 
appear great, and great things small, by force 
of words ; who talk of what is new as though it 
were old, and of what is old as though it were 
new ; and who have invented for every subject 
a terse brevity and illimitable prolixity ? Once 
though, when I told Prodicus of this, he burst 
out a-laughing, and said that none. but himself 
had discovered what kind of speeches were 
required by art. We must have them, says 
he, neither long nor short, but of moderate 

Ph. Cleverly said, Prodicus. 

Soc. But we must not forget Hippias ; for I 
fancy our friend from Elis would be on the 
same side with him of Ceos. 


/ //. Doubtless. 

Soc. But where shall we find words f< 
Polus s museum of ornaments his jingle-mak 
ing, maxim-making, image-making, and all the 
pretty expressions which he borrowed from 
his master Licymnius, to create a harmonious 

diction ? 

Ph. Was not this though, Socrates, some 
thing in the style of Protagoras ? 

Soc. A correctness of diction, young sir, was 
what he taught, and a great many other fine 
things too. But in the art of dragging i 
piteous whinings on poverty and age, there 
never was, I believe, such a master as the hero 
of Chalcedon. He was a terrible man, too for 
rousing the passions of a crowd, and lulling 
them again when roused, by the magic of his 
song, as he used to say ; and at raising c 
rebutting a calumny on any ground whatsoever, 
he was eminently expert. To come, however 
to the conclusion of the speech, that is, I 
imagine, a point on which all men are agreed, 
though some call it recapitulation, and . 
by some different title. 

Ph You mean, the summarily reminding t 
hearers at the end of the speech of all that has 
been said in the course of it. 

Soc. Yes ; and now have you anything e 
to tell me about the art of speaking ? 

Ph. Only a few trifling matters not wor 

Soc. Well, if they are trifling, let us pass 
them by, and rather hold up these we have got 268 


to the light, that we may discern the character 
and sphere of their efficiency in art. 

Ph. There is no doubt of its being a very 
powerful one, Socrates ; in popular assemblies, 
at any rate. 

Soc. None, I am aware ; but look at them, 
my good sir, and see whether you do not 
observe, as I do, some flaw in their texture. 
Ph. Point it out, will you ? 
Soc. Well, answer me this. Suppose a man 
were to call upon your friend Eryximachus, or 
his father Actimenus, and say, I know how to 
make such applications to the body as will 
create either heat or cold, as I please ; and if 
I think proper, I can produce vomitings and 
purgings, and a great variety of similar effects. 
And, on the strength of this knowledge, I flatter 
myself that I am a physician, and able to make 
a physician of any one to whom I may com 
municate the knowledge of these matters. What 
do you think would be their answer on hearing 
this ? 

Ph. Why, they would, of course, ask him 
whether he also knew to what objects, at what 
times, and to what extent, these modes of treat 
ment ought severally to be applied. 

Soc. And if he were to answer, Oh, I know 
nothing of the kind; but I expect that my 
pupil will be able to act in all these matters for 
himself, as soon as he has learnt the secrets I 

Ph. Why then they would doubtless say. 
The man is mad; he has been hearing some 


book read, or he has fallen in with some 
nostrum or other, and fancies himself in con 
sequence a made physician, while in reality he 
knows nothing at all about the art. 

Soc. And what if a man were to go up to 
Sophocles and Euripides, and tell them that he 
knew how to make a very long harangue on a 
small matter, and again, a very short harangue 
on a great matter ; that he could write at will 
in a pathetic or in a bold and menacing tone ; 
that he possessed a variety of similar accom 
plishments, and that by giving lessons in such 
he conceived himself to be imparting the power 
of writing tragedy ? 

Ph. Well, they too, I imagine, Socrates, 
would burst into a laugh at the notion of 
tragedy being made up of these elements, 
without regard being paid to their consistency 
with one another and the whole in the com 

Soc. True, but they would not, I conceive, 
rail at him coarsely, but would rather adopt 
the tone a musician would use on meeting with 
a man who esteemed himself a harmonist, be 
cause, as he said, he happened to know how to 
draw from a chord the highest and lowest pos 
sible notes. For the musician, I imagine, would 
not fiercely say to such a person, You wretched 
fellow, you are stark mad : but, with the gentle 
ness that music inspires, would reply, It is 
doubtless necessary, my excellent friend, for 
these matters to be understood by the intended 
harmonist, but there is nothing in the world to 

necessary preli m in ar t s JTarmoT 3 "5 ** 
harmony itself. rmony, anc j not 

Ph. And a very proper answer too 

medicine itself. tO medlcin e, but not 

Ph. Most assuredly 


just now enuUr "d of d T h e Ce : n Which ^ 
"nage-makings, and all the " axlm - maki ngs, 
which w maki " S f 

rather make all 

of this noianre fc 

ignorance, have conceived them 


selves inventors of an art of rhetoric because 
they happen to possess the acquirements which 
must of necessity precede the art ; and if, again, 
they believe that by teaching these acquirements 
to others they have imparted to them rhetoric 
in perfection, while they say nothing about the 
power of using each of them persuasively, or of 
combining them into one general whole, but 
leave it, as a trifling matter, to the pupils 
themselves, to furnish, out of their own unaided 
resources, in the speeches they may have to 

Ph. Well, certainly, Socrates, I am afraid 
that such is very much the character of the art 
which these people teach both in lecture and 
writing ; and I must confess I think you have 
spoken the truth. But do now tell me by what 
means, and from what source, we may acquire 
the real art of rhetorical persuasion. 

Soc. The power, Phrcdrus, of becoming a 
consummate workman therein, is probably, or 
I should rather say, is of necessity, subject to a 
universal law. If you are endowed by nature 
with a genius for speaking, you will be a dis 
tinguished speaker, if you add thereto science 
and practice ; but in whichever of these three 
requisites you are wanting, you will by so much 
fall short of perfection. However, for all of 
it that is art, the true method will not, I think, 
be found on the road whereon Tisias and 
Thrasymachus are travelling. 
Ph. On what road then ? 
Soc. Pericles would seem, my good friend, 


not without reason, to have become the most 
perfect orator that ever lived. 

Ph. How so ? 

Soc. All the higher arts require, over and 
above their immediate discipline, a subtle and 
speculative acquaintance with physical science ; 
it being, I imagine, by some such door as this 
27O that there enters that elevation of thought and 
universal mastery over the subject in hand. 
Now Pericles added these advantages to that 
of great natural genius. For he fell into the 
hands, if I mistake not, of Anaxagoras, a 
teacher of such studies, and being by him 
stored with abstruse speculation, and led to 
penetrate into the nature of the intelligent and 
unintelligent principle subjects which occupied, 
you are aware, the main place in his master s 
discourse he draughted from those researches 
into the art of speaking the investigations suit 
able for it. 

Ph. How do you mean ? 

Soc. The case, I imagine, is the same with 
the art of rhetoric as it is with that of medicine. 

Ph. In what way ? 

Soc. In both it is necessary to investigate 
nature ; the nature of the body in the one, and 
of the soul in the other, if you intend to follow 
a scientific principle, and not a mere empirical 
routine, in the application of such medicine and 
diet to the former as will produce in it health 
and strength, and of such words and rightful 
culture to the latter as will impart to it the de 
sired persuasion and virtue. 


Ph. This seems reasonable at any rate, 

Soc. Now, do you conceive it possible to 
comprehend satisfactorily the nature of the soul 
without comprehending the nature of the 
universe ? 

Ph. Why, if credit is to be given to Hippo 
crates, of the line of ^sculapius, the nature of 
the body even cannot be comprehended with 
out this investigation. 

Soc. He says well, Phaedrus. However, we 
must not be content with the evidence of 
Hippocrates, but, interrogating the argument 
itself, observe if it be consistent. 

Ph. True. 

Soc. Observe, then, with regard to nature 
what is maintained by Hippocrates and the 
truth. Is it not thus that they bid us examine 
into a thing s nature ? In the first place, we 
are to inquire whether that is simple or mani 
fold in which we wish to be scientifically pro 
ficient ourselves, and able to render others such 
also: secondly, if it be simple, we are to examine 
what power it possesses by nature of acting, 
and of acting upon what, or what susceptibility 
of being acted upon, and what it is that acts 
upon it ; if it comprise a number of kinds, we 
are to enumerate these kinds, and observe with 
regard to each of them, as in the simple case, 
its properties, whether active or passive. 

/ //. Yes, this seems to be the way, Socrates. 
Soc. At any rate, the method which ne 
glected these investigations would be no better 


than a blind man s walk. But surely we must 
never compare the scientific follower of any 
pursuit to a blind or a deaf man. No; it is 
evident that whosoever teaches speaking on 
scientific principles, will accurately explain the 
essential nature of that to which his pupil will 
have to address his speeches. And this, if I 
mistake not, will be the souh 

Ph. Indisputably. 

Soc. Against this then all his battle is directed; 
271 for in this it is that he endeavours to effect 
persuasion. Is it not so ? 

Ph. Yes. 

Soc. It is obvious, therefore, that Thrasy- 
machus and every one else who seriously com 
municates an art of rhetoric, will, in the first 
place, with all accuracy notice and make 
apparent whether the soul be single and 
uniform by nature, or, like the body, of many 
different kinds this being the process which 
we maintain to be : revealing a nature. 

Ph. Precisely. 

Soc. Secondly, he will explain in what part 
it is active, and upon what it acts ; in what 
part passive, and by what it is acted upon. 

Ph. To be sure he will. 

Soc. And thirdly, when he has ranged in 
order, the different kinds of speech and different 
kinds of soul, and their different conditions, he 
will enumerate all causes that act, and suiting" 
kind by kind, will show what sort of soul is of 
necessity persuaded, or not persuaded, by what 
sort of speech, and for what reason, in either case. 


Ph. At any rate, his work would to all 
appearance be best done by this method. 

Soc. Never, I can assure you, my friend, 
will aught spoken or explained on a different 
method be spoken or explained on a scientific 
method, either in this case or any other. But 
our modern authors, whom you wot of, of arts 
of rhetoric, are crafty dissemblers, and manage 
to keep out of view their exquisite insight into 
the nature of the soul. Till, then, they both 
speak and write in this manner, let us not 
accord to them that they speak and write 

Ph. What manner do you mean by this ? 

Soc. To dictate the exact forms of expression 
were no easy task ; but the general course that 
a speaker ought to pursue, if he means to per 
form his work as scientifically as possible, I am 
prepared to explain. 

Ph. Do so. 

Soc. It being admitted that the efficacy of 
speech is to win men s souls, it follows of 
necessity that the intended speaker must be 
acquainted with all kinds of soul that exist. 
Now of these kinds there are a certain number, 
each being of a certain sort ; whence result 
different characters in different individuals. And 
this division being established, there are again 
a certain number of kinds of speeches, each of 
a certain character. Persons, therefore, of a 
certain character are by speeches of a certain 
character easily persuaded for certain reasons 
into certain things, while persons of a different 


character are under the same circumstances 
hard to be persuaded. These distinctions, 
then, must be competently understood ; but 
even when understood, our speaker must be 
able to follow them rapidly with his perceptive 
faculties, as they fall under his notice in the 
course and operation of daily life, or as yet he 
knows no more of his art than the mere speeches 
he used to hear from his master at school. But 
when he is in a condition to say what sort of 
man is likely to be persuaded by what sort of 
speech, and on meeting with an individual in 
the world, is able to read his character at a 
272 glance, and say to himself, Here is the man, 
and here the nature, for which I heard those 
speeches from my master, now actually present 
before me ; him, therefore, I must address with 
this sort of speech, in this sort of manner, if I 
mean to persuade him to this sort of thing 
when, I say, he is possessed of all this know 
ledge, and has learnt, moreover, the proper 
time for speaking, and the proper time for 
being silent, and has further learnt to dis 
tinguish between the seasonable and unseason 
able use of the style sententious, the style 
pathetic, the style indignant, and all your other 
styles of speaking in which he has been in 
structed, then, I maintain, and not till then, is 
his art wrought into a beautiful and a perfect 
work. But if he omit any of these requisites, 
whether in writing, or teaching, or speaking, 
while he professes to be performing his work 
scientifically, the hearer who refuses to be 


persuaded achieves a victory over him. But, 
Phredrus, but, Socrates we shall doubtless 
hear from our friend the treatise-writer is this 
to be your sole art of speaking, or may we put 
up with one conducted on somewhat different 
principles ? 

Ph. None other, I take it, Socrates, can 
possibly be allowed, and yet this of yours 
appears no slight undertaking. 

Soc. True, Phasdrus, it is not slight. And 
for this reason we ought to turn over all their 
writings again and again, to see whether there 
be found anywhere an easier and a briefer road 
to the art, in order that we may not uselessly 
travel on a long and rough one when we might 
go by one both smooth and short. So if 
you have ever heard of anything available for 
our purpose, either from Lysias, or any other 
teacher, make an effort to remember and tell 
it me. 

Ph. If the effort were sufficient, Socrates, I 
should be able to do so ; as it is, I can remem 
ber nothing at the moment. 

Soc. What say you then to my repeating a 
statement which I have heard from certain 
gentlemen who handle the subject ? 
Ph. I should like it of all things. 
Soc. Well, the saying is, you know, Phae- 
drus, that it s fair to state even the wolf s cause. 
Ph. It is, and do you comply with it. 
Soc. I will. They tell me there is no need 
in the world to treat the matter so solemnly, or 
to carry it back to so remote a source, by such 

ioo PH&DRUS 

long meanderings. For there is not the slightest 
occasion this we also mentioned at the be 
ginning of our argument for people, intending 
to be competent speakers, to have anything at 
all to do with the truth, about actions just or 
good, or about men who are such either by 
nature or education. For in courts of justice, 
they say, no one troubles himself in the least 
degree with the truth of these matters, but only 
with what is plausible, that is to say, with what 
is likely ; to this, therefore, you must give all 
your attention if you mean to speak by rule of 
art. Nay, there are occasions when you must 
not even state facts as they have actually hap 
pened, if the story be improbable, but only 
such as are likely, whether in accusation or 
defence. And, in short, in whatever you say, 
it is the probable that you must chiefly aim at, 
273 and pay no regard at all to the true. For the 
observance of this, throughout your speech, will 
supply you with the entire art. 

Ph. Yes, Socrates, this is exactly the lan 
guage employed by our professed masters in 
the art of speaking. I remember, that in the 
early part of our conversation, we did slightly 
touch upon this sort of principle, and that this 
is held to be of paramount importance by the 
gentlemen of the profession. 

Soc. Nay, Phaedrus, I m sure you have read 
over and over again the great Tisias himself. 
So let Tisias tell us in person whether he means 
anything else by the probable, than what accords 
with the opinion of the many. 

10 1 

Ph. What else can I ? answers Tisias. 

Soc. On the strength then, I suppose, of this 
sapient and scientific discovery, he proceeds to 
announce, that if a weak, but courageous man, 
is brought to trial for having knocked down 
and robbed of his clothes, or purse, a strong 
and cowardly one, neither accuser nor accused 
is to tell the truth to the judges, but the coward 
is to say that the other had assistance when he 
knocked him down ; while the brave man must 
first prove the fact of their being alone, and then 
appealing to their favourite probable, exclaim, 
Why, how could a man like myself have ever 
thought of attacking a man like that ? But the 
other, you may be sure, is not to plead his own 
cowardice, but rather essay some fresh false 
hood, which will, perhaps, supply his adversary 
with the means of refuting the accusation. And 
so, whatever be the matter on hand, this, he 
says, is the style of pleading warranted by art. 
Is it not so, Phcedrus ? 

Ph. It is. 

Soc. Recondite truly is the art, and wonderful 
the skill of its inventor, be he Tisias, or who he 
may, and whatever be the name he delights to 
be called by. But, Phosdrus, shall we answer 
him or not ? 

Ph. With what ? 

Soc. With this. Long before you joined our 
conversation, Tisias, we chanced to observe, 
that this vaunted probability of yours only made 
itself felt in the minds of the many, by virtue 
of its resemblance to the truth. And we have 

102 PH&DRUS 

since proved, that in all cases the various shades 
of resemblance are best detected by the man 
who is best acquainted with the truth in question. 
So that, if you have anything else to say on the 
art of speaking, we shall be delighted to hear 
it ; if not, we will abide by our previous position, 
that unless a speaker has reckoned up the 
different natures of his hearers, and is able 
both to separate things into their several kinds, 
and embrace particulars under one general idea, 
he will never reach that highest point of excel 
lence in the art which is attainable by the power 
of man. But this knowledge he can never 
possibly acquire without great labour ; labour 
which the wise man ought to bestow, not with 
a view to speaking and acting before the world, 
but for the sake of making himself able, both 
by word and deed to please the gods as best 
274 he can. For verily, Tisias, so speak wiser men 
than you or I, it behoves not the reasonable 
man to study pleasing fellow -bondsmen, save 
only if he may in passing, but masters good, 
and of good descent. If, therefore, our circuit 
be a long one, marvel not ; for it is for the sake 
of high ends that we have to make it, and not 
for such as you conceive. Still, even yours, as 
our argument proves, may be best attained, if 
you choose to derive them from our source. 

Ph. The ends you speak of, Socrates, are very 

glorious, I know, if a man could but attain to them. 

Soc. But surely, my friend, if the ends be 

glorious, all that befalls us in seeking them 

is glorious also. 


Ph. Indeed it is. 

Soc. So far, then, as regards the scientific 
and unscientific treatment of discourse : let this 

Ph. And well it may. 

Soc. But the question of propriety and im 
propriety in writing, and how to make a com 
position graceful or inelegant, remains to be 
considered. Does it not ? 
Ph. Yes. 

Soc. Are you aware, Prunedrus, by what con 
duct or language, with respect to speaking, a 
man will please God best ? 
Ph. Not at all ; are you ? 
Soc. At any rate I can tell you a story of 
the ancients on the subject. Whether it be 
true or not, they know themselves ; but if haply 
we could find the truth, could we possibly, 
think you, pay heed any longer to the opinions 
of men ? 

Ph. That would be indeed ridiculous : but 
pray tell me the story you say you have heard. 
Soc. Well, I heard that in the neighbour 
hood of Naucratis, in Egypt, there lived one 
of the ancient gods of that country ; the same 
to whom that holy bird is consecrated which 
they call, as you know, Ibis, and whose own 
name was Theuth. He, they proceed, was 
the first to invent numbers and arithmetic, 
and geometry and astronomy ; draughts more 
over, and dice, and, above all, letters. Now 
the whole of Egypt was at that time under 
the sway of the god Thamus, who resided 


near the capital city of the upper region, which 
the Greeks call Egyptian Thebes. The god 
himself they call Ammon. To him, there 
fore, Theuth repaired ; and, displaying his in 
ventions, recommended their general diffusion 
among the Egyptians. The king asked him 
the use of each, and received his explanations, 
as he thought them good or bad, with praise 
or censure. Now on each of the arts Thamus 
is reported to have said a great deal to Theuth, 
both in its favour and disfavour. It would 
take a long story to repeat it all. But when 
they came to the letters, Theuth began : * This 
invention, O king, will make the Egyptians 
wiser, and better able to remember, it being a 
medicine which I have discovered both for 
memory and wisdom. The king replied : 
Most ingenious Theuth, one man is capable 
of giving birth to an art, another of estimating 
275 the amount of good or harm it will do to those 
who are intended to use it. And so now you, 
as being the father of letters, have ascribed to 
them, in your fondness, exactly the reverse of 
their real effects. For this invention of yours 
will produce forgetfulness in the niinds of those 
who learn it, by causing them to neglect their 
memory, inasmuch as, from their confidence in 
writing, they will recollect by the external aid 
of foreign symbols, and not by the internal use 
of their own faculties. Your discovery, there 
fore, is a medicine not for memory, but for re 
collection, for recalling to, not for keeping in 
mind. And you are providing for your disciples 


a show of wisdom without the reality. For, 
acquiring by your means much information un 
aided by instruction, they will appear to possess 
much knowledge, while, in fact, they will, for 
the most part, know nothing at all ; and, more 
over, be disagreeable people to deal with, as 
having become wise in their own conceit, in 
stead of truly wise. 

Ph. You possess a facility, Socrates, for 
making up tales of Egypt, or any other strange 
country you please. 

Soc. We are told, my friend, that the voice 
of an oak, in the holy ground of Zeus of Dodona, 
was the first ever gifted with prophecy. The 
men of those days, not being clever like you 
moderns, were content, in their simplicity, to 
listen to an oak or a stone, if only it spake 
the truth. But to you, it seems, it makes a 
difference who the speaker is, and from what 
country he comes ; you do not merely consider 
whether the fact be, or be not, as he states it. 

Ph. Your reproof is just. And I believe 
the truth, with regard to letters, to be as the 
Theban pronounces. 

Soc. He, therefore, who leaves behind him, 
and he again who receives an art in writing, 
with the idea that anything clear or fixed is to 
proceed from the writing, must be altogether a 
foolish-minded person, and, in truth, ignorant 
of Ammon s prediction, as he must suppose that 
written words can do something more than 
recall the things of which they treat to the 
mind of one who knows them already. 

106 PH^DRUS 

Most true. 

Soc. For this, I conceive, Phasdrus, is the 
evil of writing, and herein it closely resembles 
painting. The creatures of the latter art stand 
before you as if they were alive, but if you ask 
them a question, they look very solemn, and 
say not a word. And so it is with written dis 
courses. You could fancy they speak as though 
1 they were possessed of sense, but if you wish to 
understand something they say, and question 
them about it, you find them ever repeating 
but one and the self-same story. Moreover, 
every discourse, once written, is tossed about 
from hand to hand, equally among those who 
understand it, and those for whom it is in no 
wise fitted ; and it does not know to whom it 
ought, and to whom it ought not, to speak. 
And when misunderstood and unjustly attacked, 
it always needs its father to help it ; for, un 
aided, it can neither retaliate, nor defend itself. 

Ph. This again is most true. 

Soc. But, hold ! Is there not another kind 

276 of discourse, this one s legitimate brother ? 

Let us see both how it arises, and how far 

more excellent and efficient than the other it 


Ph. What discourse do you mean, and how 
does it take its rise ? 

Soc. I mean that which is written with in 
sight in the learner s mind, which is at once 
able to defend itself, and knows before whom 
to speak, and before whom to be silent. 

Ph. You mean the wise man s discourse, 


which is possessed both of life and soul, and 
of which the written one may fairly be called a 

Soc. Most assuredly I do. But come now, 
answer me this. If a prudent husbandman had 
seeds which he cared for, and wished to come 
to fruit, would he seriously sow them in sum 
mer-time, in the gardens of Adonis, and delight 
to behold them growing up finely in eight clays i 
or, if he did this at all, would he not do it as 
the mere pastime of a holiday ; but, with all 
the aid of his husbandman s art, sow the seeds, 
on which he set serious store, in their proper 
soil, and be content to see them in the eighth 
month arrived at their maturity ? 

Ph. Yes, of course, Socrates ; he would do 
the one seriously, and the other, as you say, 
by way of amusement. 

Soc. And shall we say that he who has an 
insight into the just, the beautiful, and the 
good, shows less wisdom in the treatment of 
his seeds than the husbandman ? 
Ph. God forbid. 

Soc. He will not then seriously set himself 

to write them in water, sowing them with ink 

by means of a pen, with the aid of words that 

are unable to defend themselves by speaking, 

and unable adequately to teach the truth. 

Ph. Certainly, we may expect he will not. 

Soc. Indeed we may. But in the gardens 

of letters he will sow his seeds, I imagine, and 

write, when he does write, for mere amusement, 

treasuring up aids to the memory both for him- 


self, when he comes to the years of forgetful 
ness, and for all who are following on the same 
road. And he will please himself with watch 
ing his plants in their tender growth And 
while others are indulging in other recreations 
refreshing themselves it may be with feast and 
kindred pleasure, he, if I mistake not will in 
place of such amusements be spending his 
holiday m the pastime I mention. 

Ph. And a noble pastime it is, Socrates, by 
the side of but a poor one, when a man who 
can make discourses his play diverts himself 
with telling stories about justice and virtue. 

Soc. Yes, my dear Phaedrus, it is noble- 
but far nobler, I imagine, is a man s work on 
these matters, when finding a congenial soul 
he avails himself of the dialectical art to sow 
and plant therein scientific words, which are 
277 competent to defend themselves, and him who 
planted them, and are not unfruitful, but bear 
seed in their turn, from which other words 
springing up in other minds are capable of pre 
serving this precious seed ever undecaying, and 
making their possessor ever happy, so far as 
happiness is possible for man. 

Ph. Yes, Socrates, this is indeed far nobler 
than the other. 

Soc. Now then, Phasdrus, that this point is 
settled, we are in a condition, you will observe, 
to decide on our former questions. 
Ph. Which do you mean ? 
Soc. Those which led us in our desire to 
solve them to the point where we are at present 


arrived ; one being to examine the desei vedness 
of the reproach cast on Lysias for writing 
speeches; the other, to discover, with regard 
to speeches themselves, what were written 
according to, and what without, rule of art. 
Now this distinction appears to me to have 
been marked with sufficient clearness. 

Ph. And so it did to me ; but I should be 
glad to be reminded of it again. 

Soc. Before a speaker is acquainted with the 
true nature of each subject on which he speaks 
or writes, and is become able to give it a general 
definition, and then again knows how to divide 
it into kinds till he reaches the indivisible; 
before he has investigated in like manner the 
nature of the soul, and finding the kind of dis 
course suitable for each kind of soul, orders 
and embellishes his discourse accordingly ; 
offering to complex souls discourses of complex 
structure and rich in every harmony; but simple 
discourses to simple souls : before, I say, he is 
able to understand and do all this, he cannot 
possibly handle discourse with the art of which 
it admits, whether his object be to instruct or 
persuade, as the whole of our previous argument 
has tended to prove. 

Ph. Yes, this is pretty nearly just as I 
thought it was. 

Soc. But what are we to say with respect to 
the honour or disgrace of writing and speaking, 
and the conditions under which they may justly 
incur or avoid reproach ? Have not our late 
arguments sufficed to show ? 


Ph. What? 

Soc. That if Lysias or any one else has ever 
written, or means to write, either a private 
book, or a public document in the shape of 
a law, with the idea that his writing contains a 
great certainty and clearness in this case re 
proach attaches to the writer, whether people 
say so or not. For a total blindness with regard 
to justice and injustice, to virtue and vice, 
escapes not in sooth the charge of being truly 
disgraceful, even though it has been lauded by 
all the world. 

Ph. No j indeed it does not. 

Soc. But whoever believes that in a written 
discourse, whatever be the subject, there must 
of necessity be much that is sportive ; and that 
no discourse worthy of serious attention has 
ever, either in verse or prose, been written or 
spoken if spoken in the way that our declama 
tions are recited, by rote, without examination 
278 or instruction, merely to persuade but that 
the very best of them are nothing else than 
reminders to knowledge ; whoever believes this, 
and believes on the other hand, that in dis 
courses, and only in discourses taught, and for 
the sake of instruction spoken and really written 
in the soul of the hearer, about things just and 
beautiful and good, there is found what is clear 
and perfect, and worthy of attention ; and that 
such discourses ought to be accounted his own 
legitimate offspring ; first, the one in his own 
mind, if it be there by his own discovery ; then 
those which children or brothers of the former 


have either after or at the same time sprung up 
worthily in the minds of others : whoever, I 
say, thinks this of these discourses, and cares 
for none beside, will go near, Phaedrus, to be 
such a man as you and I would pray we might 
both become. 

J /i. Yes, Socrates, with all my heart I wish 
and pray for such a lot. 

Soc. Be we then content to have amused 
ourselves thus far with the subject of speaking ; 
and go you now, Phcedrus, and tell Lysias, that 
you and I went down together to the spring 
and favoured haunt of the nymphs, where we 
heard words which bade us tell Lysias and all 
writers of speeches ; Homer, and all makers of 
poetry, without music or with ; Solon, and all 
Cramers oC political writings under the name of 
laws ; that if they composed their works with a 
knowledge of the truth, and with ability to 
defend them if brought to account, and with 
the power, moreover, of making by the words 
of their mouth the writings of their pen appear 
but poor, they ought not to be named from 
these holiday productions, but from those which 
formed their earnest work. 

/ //. What are the names then that you 
accord them ? 

Soc. To call them wise, Phncdrus, seems to 
me indeed to be a great matter, and beseeming 
God alone. Lovers of wisdom (philosophers), 
or some name of this kind, would both suit 
them better and be in better taste. 

Ph. And nothing at all out of the way either. 



Soc. But the man, on the other hand, who 
has nothing more precious to show than what 
he long tortured his brain to write or compose 
with elaborate patching and careful retrenching 
that man, I conceive, you may justly denominate 
either poet, or speech-writer, or writer of laws 

Ph. Justly indeed. 

Soc. Go then, tell this to your friend. 

Ph. But you, Socrates, what will you do? 
We must not pass over your friend either. 

Soc. Whom do you mean ? 

Ph. Isocrates the fair. What message will 
you take him, Socrates ? What shall we say 
that he is ? 

Soc. Isocrates is still young, Phasdrus : what 
279 I augur of him, however, I am willing to tell you 

Ph. What is that, pray ? 

Soc. I think better of his genius than to 
compare it with the speech-writing of Lysias. 
Moreover, I account him endued with a nobler 
nature. So that there will be nothing sur 
prising if, as he advances in years, he will in 
the art of speaking even, to which he is now 
applying himself, leave all who have hitherto 
handled it, far as children behind him ; and 
nothing surprising either if he be not content 
with such achievements, but be led by a godlier 
impulse to holier and higher things. For 
nature, my friend, has implanted a love of 
wisdom in the mind of the man. This then is 
the message I will take from the gods of the 
spot to Isocrates as my favourite, and do you 
take the one I gave you to Lysias, as yours. 


Ph. It shall be done but let us depart, the 
rather as the heat of the day is over. 

Soc. Were it not better to offer up a prayer 
to these gods before we go ? 

Ph. Oh yes. 

Soc. Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who 
here abide, grant me to be beautiful in the 
inner man, and all I have of outer things to be 
at peace with those within. May I count the 
wise man only rich. And may my store of 
gold be such as none but the good can bear. 

Phzedrus, need we anything more ? For 
myself I have prayed enough. 

Ph. For me too pray the same. Friends 
share and share alike. 
Soc. Let us go. 



WALKING one day from the Academy to the Lyceum, 203 
Socrucs fell in with two friends of his, named Hippo- 
thales and Ctesippus, who were standing with some 
other young men near the open door of a palaestra, and 
was by them invited to enter. Before complying with 
their request, he rallies Hippothales, who seems a foolish 
amorous person, on the present object of his affections ; 
and Ctesippus, joining in the attack, ridicules t 
timid fulsome, pompous style in which Hippothales was 
accustomed toaddress his beloved, the young andbeautifu 
Lysis Socrates points out the evil of this habit ; and 
promises that, if Hippothales will introduce him to 
Lysis, he will show how he ought to be addressed. 
Hippothales assents, and adds, You will find him in 
the palestra, Socrates ; and if he does not come to you 
of his own accord, as he is pretty sure to do when you 
begin to talk for he is very fond of listening you can 
get to know him through his great friend Menexenus 
who is a cousinaa-Clesippus here, and whom you will 
also find in the palcestra. 

So Socrates enters and sees Lysis standing among his 207 
playfellows, beautiful as a young god. Socrates then 
sits down, and begins to talk to the young men who 
had come in with him. Lysis eyes him wistfully, but js 
too modest to join the group, till Menexenus comes 
from the outer court, and then he too comes up t 
sits down by his friend. Socrates, always pleased with 
the sight of friends, begins to question Menexenus abo 
their common friendship. But Menexenus is suddenly 


called away ; and then Socrates turns to Lysis, and 
leaving the subject of friendship for the present, proceeds 
to give Hippothales a specimen of the manner in which 
a lover should address his beloved. This merely con 
sists in putting him down, instead of puffing him up, as 
Hippothales was wont to do. Socrates makes Lysis 
admit that, though his father and mother are very fond 
of him, and wish to see him happy, they are very far 
from letting him do what he likes. On the contrary, 
they scold him, and thwart him, and put him under 
tutors and governors ; and all this, not because he is 
not old enough to do as he likes for they let him do 
some things, young as he is but because he is not wise 
enough. He goes to school, because he has no notions 
of things. And how can he have high notions, when he 
has no notions ? 

211 Thus does Socrates teach humility ; and Lysis, who 
is really a charming boy, takes the lesson in very good 
part. But at this moment Menexenus comes back to 
the palaestra, and Socrates returns to the subject of 

212 Menexenus, he says, you are most fortunate at your 
early age to have found a friend, and such a friend as 
Lysis. I do so envy you, for there is nothing I value 
so much as a friend. But what is friendship ? And, 
when a man loves another, which is the friend ? the 
lover, or the loved? or doesn t it matter? At first 
Menexenus thinks it does not matter. Driven from this 
view, he thinks it must be the lover ; and then that it 
must be the loved one. But, as no view seems satis 
factory, Socrates opines that they are" not conducting 
the search in a proper method ; and, as Lysis chimes in 
with a very pretty assent, Socrates turns to him and 
proposes that they should try a different tact, and call 
in the aid of the poets, our fathers in wisdom. What 
then do the poets say ? Homer asserts that_J God 
brings like to like. And don t our natural philosophers 
say the same? Don t they assert that like loves like? 
Is likeness then the cause of friendship? But this won t 
hold. The bad are not friends to the bad, because 
they are so inconsistent, that they are not even like 


themselves ; much less are they like other bad men. 
AnT he good are not friends to the good because they 
are sufficient in themselves. They don t need other 
good men, and therefore they are not friends to them. 
If then likeness is not the cause of friendship let us try 
the opposite, and say that likeness is a cause of aversion 
and unlikeness of friendship. Now what do our poc s 
and philosophers say to this? Doesn t Hesiod tell u 
that Totter ever jars with potter? And don t our 
philosophers tell us that dry craves for moist, and cold 
for hot and so on ? But this won t hold either ; for then 
the just would be friends to the unjust, and the good to 
the bad : which is absurd. 

Once more. We have found that good is not the 216 
friend of good, nor evil of evil. But may it not be that 
that which is neither good nor evil is the friend of a 
cood thing ? Take the human body, for instance. 1 hat 
essentially is neither good nor evil. But if any evil, as 
(disease, comes upon it, then for the sake of getting rid 
\of an evil thing it becomes the friend of the medical art, 
which is a good thing. So too with philosophers, or 
those who desire wisdom. They are not wholly wise 
or they would have wisdom, instead of desiring it. 
Nor are they unwise, or they would not desire it So 
they too, being neither good nor evil, are friends of a 
thing which is good. Surely then we have now dis 
covered the nature of friendship. There is friendship, 
where that, which is neither good nor evil, desires a 
good thing because of the presence of an evil thing. 
This conclusion is received by the boys with hearty 
assent. But, though Socrates at first regards it with 
complacency, a suspicion steals upon him that it is not 
altogether right. The friend, it appears, is a friend c 
some one for the sake of a good thing because of an 
evil thing. Then this good thing is a friend or loved 
thing, for the sake of some other thing, which is also 
good and also loved. And this again for the sake of 
some other good thing. And so on. At last therefore 
we come to that good thing which has no beyond; 
that is, to good absolutely. And of this we are the 
friend because of evil. But, if evil were removed, we 

120 LYSIS 

should be friends of it no more ; for its whole use and 
purport would be gone ; that is, there would be no 
friendship. This explanation therefore will not do. 

221 Once more. Is it not possible for a man to love an 
object, not for the sake of any ulterior end, but simply 
because he desires it ? Now he desires what he wants ; 
and he wants what he is deprived of, and he is deprived 
of that which is his own. Here then perhaps is the 
source of friendship. We are friends of that which be 
longs to us, which is akin to us, which is bound to us 
by some mysterious tie. But this then would be like 
us. But we cannot love that, for we have shown that 
like cannot be the friend of like. And surely it would 
be good. But we cannot love that, for we have shown 
that good cannot be the final object of friendship. Are 
we then wrong altogether, and must we give up our 
search ? 

223 With this confession of failure Socrates was going to 
invite the opinion of the elders of the party, when the 
governor of the two boys swooped down upon them 
and persisted in taking them home. "Tis hard, con 
cludes Socrates, that we three should be such friends, 
and yet not know what a friend is ! 


I WAS walking straight from the Academy to 203 
the Lyceum, by the road which skirts the out 
side of the walls, and had reached the little 
gate where is the source of the Panops, when 
I fell in with Hippothales, the son of Hierony- 
mus, Ctesippus the Paeanian, and some more 
young men, standing together in a group. 
Hippothales, seeing me approach, called out, 
Ha, Socrates, whither and whence ? 

From the Academy, I replied, and I am 
going straight to the Lyceum. 

Straight to us, I hope, cried he. Won t you 
turn in ? it will be worth your while. 

Turn in where ? said I ; and whom do you 
mean by us ? There, he replied, pointing out 
to me an enclosure facing us in the wall, with 
an open door. There we are passing our time, 
he added ; we whom you see, and a great 
many other fine fellows too. 

And what s all this, pray ? and how are you 
passing your time ? 

This is a palaestra that has been lately erected, 2O4 
and we are passing our time principally in con 
versations, of which we should be very glad to 
give you a share. 

122 LYSIS 

You are very kind, I answered. And who 
is your teacher there ? 

A friend and admirer of yours, Miccus. 

And no ordinary man either, I rejoined ; a 
most competent sophist. 

Won t you come with us then, he said, to 
see both him and all our party there too ? 

Here, where I am, was my reply, I should 
like first to be informed, what I am to enter 
for, and who is your prime beauty ? 

Some think one, and some another, Socrates. 
But whom do you think, Hippothales ? tell me 
this. He answered only with a blush. So I 
added, Hippothales, son of Hieronymus, there 
is no longer any need for you to tell me 
whether you are in love or not, since I am 
sure you are not only in love, but pretty far 
gone in it too by this time. For though in most 
matters I am a poor useless creature, yet by 
some means or other I have received from 
heaven the gift of being able to detect at a 
glance both a lover and a beloved. On hearing 
this, he blushed still more deeply than before. 
Whereupon Ctesippus broke in, It is very fine 
of you, Hippothales, turning red in this way, 
and making such a fuss about telling Socrates 
the name, when he is quite sure, if he stays 
ever so short a time in your company, to be 
bored to death by hearing it always repeated. 
At any rate, Socrates, he has deafened our ears 
for us, and filled them full of Lysis. Nay, if 
he be but a little tipsy when he talks of him, 
we can easily fancy, on waking even the next 

LYSIS 123 

morning, that we are still hearing the name of 
Lysis. But his constant talk about him, bad 
as it is, is not the worst ; nothing like so bad 
as when he begins to deluge us with his poems 
and speeches, and, worse and worse, to sing a 
song on his darling in a portentous voice, 
which we are compelled to listen to with 
patience. And yet now, when questioned by 
you, he blushes. 

Your Lysis must be quite a juvenile, I re 
joined ; I conjecture this from my not know 
ing the name when you mentioned it. 

Why, they don t often call him by his own 
name, Socrates ; he still goes by his father s, 
the latter being so well known. Still, I am 
sure, you cannot be a stranger to the boy s 
appearance ; that s quite enough to know him by. 

Say then, whose son he is. 

Democrates s of CExone, his eldest. 

Well done, Hippothales, said I. A noble, 
and in every way a brilliant choice is this 
which you have made. But come now, go on 
about him with me, just as you do with your 
friends here, that I may judge whether you know 205 
what language a lover ought to hold with regard 
to his favourite, either to his face or before others. 

And do you really, Socrates, set any value 
on what this fellow says ? 

Do you mean, I asked, absolutely to deny 
being in love with the person he mentions ? 

No, not that, he answered ; but I do the 
making verses or speeches on him. 

He is out of his senses, doting, mad, cried 


Ctesippus. But, I replied, I don t want to 
hear any of your verses, Hippothales, nor any 
song either that you may have composed upon 
your darling ; but I should like to have an idea 
of their sense, that I may know how you be 
have toward your favourite. 

Ctesippus will tell you all about it, Socrates, 
I don t doubt ; he must remember it well 
enough, if it be true, as he says, that I dinned 
it into his ears till he was deaf. 

Oh, I know it, cried Ctesippus, right thor 
oughly too. It is such a joke, Socrates. The 
idea of a lover devoting himself exclusively to 
the object of his love, and yet having nothing 
of a personal interest to say to him that any 
child might not say ; isn t it absurd ? But 
stories that all the city rings with, about De- 
mocrates, and Lysis the boy s grandfather, and 
all his ancestors their wealth, their breeds of 
horses, their victories at the Pythian, Isthmian, 
Nemean, with four steeds and single all these 
he works into poem and speech ; ay, and 
stories too, still further out of date than these. 
For in a sort of poem the other day, he gave 
us the whole account of Hercules s entertain 
ment, telling us how their ancestor received 
that hero into his house on the strength of his 
relationship, being himself son of Zeus, by the 
daughter of the founder of CExone. Yes, Soc 
rates, such, among others, are the old wives 
tales that our lover here is ever singing and re 
citing, and condemning us moreover to listen to. 

On hearing this, I said to the lover, You 

LYSIS 125 

ridiculous Hippothales, are you making and 
singing a hymn of praise on yourself before 
you have won ? 

It isn t on myself, Socrates, that I either 
make or sing it. 

You fancy not, said I. 
How is it so ? said he. 

In every way, I replied, these songs have 
reference to you. If you succeed in winning 
such a youth as you describe, all that you have 
said and sung will redound to your honour, and 
be in fact your hymn of triumph, as if you 
had gained a victory in obtaining such a 
favourite. But if he escape your grasp, then, 
the higher the eulogium you have passed on 
him, the greater will be the blessings which 
you will seem to have missed, and the greater 
consequently the ridicule you will incur. All 206 
connoisseurs therefore in matters of love are 
careful of praising their favourites before they 
have won them, from their doubts as to the 
result of the affair. Moreover, your beauties, 
when lauded and made much of, become 
gorged with pride and arrogance. Don t you 
think so ? 

I do, he replied. 

And the more arrogant they are, the harder 
they become to be caught ? 

It is so to be expected, at any rate. 
Well, what should you say to a huntsman 
that frightened the prey he was in chase of, 
and rendered it harder to be caught ? 
That he was a very sorry one, certainly. 

126 LYSIS 

And if by speech and song he renders it 
wild instead of luring it, he can be no favour 
ite of the Muses ; can he ? 

I think not. 

Have a care then, Hippothales, that you do 
not lay yourself open with your poetry to all 
these reproaches. And yet I am sure, that to 
a man, who injured himself by his poetry, you 
would not be willing to accord the title of a 
good poet, so long as he did himself harm. 

No, indeed, that would be too unreasonable, 
he replied. But it is on this very account, 
Socrates, that I put myself in your hands, and 
beg you to give me any advice you may have 
to bestow, as to the course of conduct or con 
versation that a lover ought to adopt in order 
to render himself agreeable to the object of his 

That were no such easy matter, I replied. 
But if you would bring me to speech of Lysis, 
perhaps I could give you a specimen of what 
you ought to say to him, in place of the speeches 
and songs which you are in the habit of treat 
ing him with, according to your friends here. 

Well, there is no difficulty in that, he re 
joined. If you will only go into the palaestra 
with Ctesippus, and sit down and begin to talk, 
I have little doubt that he will come to you of 
his own accord ; for he is singularly fond of 
listening ; and, moreover, as they are keeping 
the Hermaea, boys and young men are all 
mixed up together to-day. So he is pretty 
certain to join you. But if he does not, 

LYSIS 127 

Ctesippus knows him, through his cousin 
Menexenus, who is Lysis s particular friend. 
You can get Ctesippus therefore to summon 
him, in case he does not come of himself. 

This be our plan, I cried. And taking 
Ctesippus with me, I walked towards the 
palasstra, the rest following. 

On entering we found that the boys had 
finished their sacrifices, and, the ceremony 
being now pretty well over, were playing to 
gether at knuckle-bones, all in their holiday- 
dress. The greater part were carrying on 
their game in the court outside, but some of 
them were in a corner of the undressing-room, 
playing at odd and even with a number of 
bones which they drew out of small baskets. 
Round these were stationed others looking on, 
among whom was Lysis ; and he stood in the 
midst of boys and youths with a chaplet on 
his head, unmatched in face or form. You 207 
would say he was not beautiful merely, but 
even of a noble mien. For ourselves, we with 
drew to the opposite part of the room, and 
sitting down, as nothing was going on there, 
began to talk. While thus engaged, Lysis 
kept turning round and eyeing us, evidently 
wishing to join us. For some time though he 
remained in doubt, not liking to walk up alone. 
But when Menexenus looked in from his game 
in the court, and on seeing Ctesippus and me 
came to sit down with us, Lysis also followed 
at sight of his friend, and took a seat by his 
side. Then the others came up too, and 

128 LYSIS 

among them Hippothales ; who, seeing them 
form into a good-sized group, screened himself 
behind them in a position where he did not 
think he could be seen by Lysis ; so fearful 
was he of giving him offence. And thus 
placed near him, he listened to our conversation. 

I began it by turning my eyes on Menexenus, 
and saying, Son of Demophon, which of you 
two is the elder ? 

It is a disputed point, he replied. 

And do you dispute too, which is the better 
fellow ? 

Certainly, was his answer. 

And so too, I suppose, which is the more 
beautiful ? 

At this they both laughed. I will not ask 
you, I added, which is the wealthier ; for you 
are friends, are you not ? 

That we are ! they both cried. 

And friends, they tell us, share and share 
alike ; so in this respect, at any rate, there 
will be no difference between you, if only you 
give me a true account of your friendship. 

To this they both assented. 

I was then proceeding to inquire which of 
the two excelled in justice, and which in wis 
dom, when some one came up and carried off 
Menexenus, telling him that the master of the 
palaestra wanted him I presume, on business 
connected with the sacrifice. Accordingly he 
left us, and I went on questioning Lysis. 
Lysis, said I, I suppose your father and mother 
love you very dearly. 

LYSIS 129 

Very dearly, he answered. 

They would wish you then to be as happy 
as possible. 

Of course. 

Do you think a man happy if he is a slave, 
and may not do what he wants ? 

No, that indeed I don t. 

Well, if your father and mother love you, 
and wish you to become happy, it is clear that 
they try in every way to make you happy. 

To be sure they do. 

They allow you then, I suppose, to do what 
you wish, and never scold you, or hinder you 
from doing what you want to do. 

Yes, but they do though, Socrates, and 
pretty frequently too. 

How ? said I. They wish you to be happy, 208 
and yet hinder you from doing what you want. 
But tell me this : If you wanted to ride on one 
of your father s chariots, and take the reins 
during a race, would they not allow you ? 

No, most assuredly they would not. 

Whom would they then ? I asked. 

There is a charioteer paid by my father. 

Paid ! cried I. Do they allow a paid ser 
vant in preference to you to do what he pleases 
with the horses, and, what is more, give him 
money for so doing ? 

Not a doubt about it, Socrates, he replied. 

Well, but your pair of mules I am sure they 
let you drive ; and even if you wished to take 
the whip and whip them, they would allow you. 

Allow me, would they ? said he. 

130 LYSIS 

Would they not ? said I. Is there no one 
allowed to whip them ? 

Of course there is ; the mule-driver. 

Is he a slave or free ? 

A slave, he answered. 

A slave then, it appears, they think of more 
account than you, their son ; they entrust their 
property to him rather than to you : and they 
allow him to do what he pleases, while you 
they hinder. But answer me further. Do they 
let you rule yourself, or not even allow you this ? 

Rule myself! I should think not, said he. 

You have some one to rule you then ? 

Yes, my governor here. 

Not a slave ? 

Yes, but he is though, ours. 

Shocking ! I exclaimed. A free man to be 
ruled by a slave. But how, pray, does this 
governor exercise his authority ? 

He takes me to school, of course. 

And do you mean to say that they rule you 
there too the schoolmasters ? 

Most certainly they do. 

Very many then, it appears, are the masters 
and rulers whom your father sets over you on 
purpose. But come now, when you go home 
to your mother, she, I am sure, lets you do 
what you please that you may be as happy 
as she can make you either with her wool or 
her loom, when she is spinning. It cannot 
possibly be that she hinders you from touching 
her spathe or her comb, or any other of her 
spinning implements. 

LYSIS 131 

He burst out a-laughing. I can assure you, 
Socrates, he said, she not only hinders me, 
but would get me a good beating if I did touch 

Beating ! cried I. You haven t done your 
father or mother any wrong, have you ? 

Not I, he answered. 

Whatever is the reason then that they 
hinder you in this shocking manner from 
being happy, and doing what you like ; and 
keep you all the day long in bondage to some 
one or other, and, in a word, doing hardly 
anything at all you want to do ? So that it 
seems you get no good whatever from your 
fortune, large as it is, but all have control over 
it, rather than you ; nor again from that beauti- 209 
ful person of yours ; for it too is under the 
care and charge of other people, while you, 
poor Lysis, have control over nothing at all, 
nor do a single thing you wish. 

Because I m not of age, Socrates. 

That should be no hindrance, son of Dc- 
mocrates, since there are things, I fancy, 
which both your father and mother allow you 
to do, without waiting for you to be of age. 
When they wish, for example, to have anything 
written or read, it is you, I conceive, whom 
they appoint to the office before any one else 
in the house. Isn t it ? 

Beyond a question, he replied. 
In these matters then you are allowed to 
do as you please : you may write whichever 
letter you like first, and whichever you like 

1 32 LYSTS 

second. And in reading you enjoy the same 
liberty. And when you take up your lyre, 
neither father nor mother, I imagine, hinder 
you from tightening or loosening such strings 
as you choose, or from playing with your fingers 
or stick, as you may think proper. Or do they 
hinder you in such matters ? 

Oh dear no ! he exclaimed. 

What in the world then can be the reason, 
Lysis, that in these matters they don t hinder 
you, while in the former they do ? 

I suppose it is, Socrates, because I under 
stand the one, and don t understand the other. 

Oh ! that s it, is it, my fine fellow ? It is 
not then for you to be old enough that your 
father is waiting to hand over everything ; but on 
the very day that he thinks you are wiser than 
he is, he will hand over to you both himself 
and all his possessions. 

I shouldn t wonder, said he. 

Nor I, said I. But again. Does your 
neighbour follow the same rule that your father 
does with regard to you ? Do you expect he 
will hand over to you his house to manage, 
as soon as he thinks you have a better idea of 
the management of a house than he has him 
self; or will he keep it in his own hands ? 

Hand it over to me, I should think. . 

And the Athenians ? Will they, do you 
imagine, hand over to you their matters directly 
they perceive that you are wise enough to 
manage them ? 

Yes, I expect so. 

LYSIS 133 

But come now, I asked, what will the great 
king do ? When his meat is cooking, will he 
allow his eldest son, heir to the throne of Asia, 
to throw into the gravy whatever he chooses ; 
or us rather, if we come before him, and 
prove that we have a better idea than his son 
has of dressing a dish ? 
Us, to be sure, said he. 

And the prince he won t allow to put in the 
least morsel even ; while with us he would 
make no difficulty, though we wished to throw 
in salt by handfuls ? 

Once more. If his son had something the 
matter with his eyes, would he allow him to 
touch them himself, if he thought him ignorant 210 
of the healing art, or rather hinder him ? 
Hinder him. 

But against us on the other hand, if he con 
ceived us to be skilled in the art, he would, I 
imagine, make no objection, even though we 
wished to force open the eyes, and sprinkle in 
ashes, as he would suppose us to be rightly 

True, he would not. 

And so, with everything else whatsoever, he 
would entrust it to us rather than to himself 
or his son, if he believed that we knew more 
about it than either of them did. 
Necessarily he would, Socrates. 
You see then, said I, how the case stands, 
dear Lysis. In matters of which we have know 
ledge all people will trust us, whether Greeks 

134 LYSIS 

or barbarians, men or women ; we shall act, 
with regard to them, exactly as we please ; no 
one will intentionally stand in our way ; and 
not only shall we be free ourselves in these 
matters, but we shall be lords over others, and 
they will be in fact our property, as we shall 
have the enjoyment of them. With regard to 
matters, on the other hand, into which we have 
acquired no insight, no one will ever allow us 
to act as we think proper, but all persons, to 
the best of their power, will hinder us from 
meddling with them; not only strangers, but even 
our own father and mother, and any nearer re 
lation if we possess one ; and we ourselves in 
these matters shall be subject to others, and 
they will be in fact the property of others, as 
we shall derive no advantage from them. Do 
you allow this to be the case ? 

I do. 

Will any one then count us his friends, will 
any one love us, in those matters in which we 
are of no use ? 

Indeed no. 

According to this then, not even you are 
loved by your own father, nor is any one else 
by any one else in the world, in so far as you 
or he is useless ? 

So it would appear, he said. 

If therefore you acquire knowledge, my 
son, all men will be friendly to you, all men 
will be attached to you ; for you will be useful 
and good. If not, you will have no friend in 
any one, not even in your father or mother, or 


any of your own family. Now is it possible, 
Lysis, for a man to have a great idea of him 
self in those matters of which he has as yet 
no idea ? 

How can he possibly ? he replied. 
And if you still require, as you do, an in 
structor, you are still without ideas. 
True, he answered. 

It cannot be then, that you have a great 
idea of yourself, if as yet you have no idea. 
No really, Socrates, I don t see how I can. 
On receiving this reply from Lysis, I turned 
my eyes on Hippothales, and was on the point 
of making a great blunder. For it came into 
my head to say, This is the way, Hippothales, 
that you should talk to your favourite, hum 
bling and checking, instead of puffing him up 
and pampering him, as you now do. How 
ever, on seeing him writhing with agitation at 
the turn the conversation was taking, I recol 
lected that, though standing so near, he didn t 
wish to be seen by Lysis. So I recovered 
myself in time, and forbore to address him. 

At this moment too Menexenus returned, 211 
and took the seat by Lysis, from which he had 
previously arisen. Whereupon Lysis, in a boy 
ish fondling way, said to me in a low voice, so 
that Menexenus couldn t hear, I say, Socrates, 
say over again to Menexenus what you have 
been saying to me. 

No, Lysis, I replied ; you must tell him 
that : you were certainly attending. 
I should think I was too, he rejoined. 

136 LYSIS 

Try to remember it then, as well as you can, 
that you may give him a clear account of the 
whole ; and if there s anything you forget, ask 
me about it some other day the first time you 
meet me. 

Well, I ll do as you tell me, Socrates, with 
all my heart ; you may rely upon that. But 
say something else to him now, will you, that 
I too may hear it, till it s time for me to go 

Well, I must do so, I replied, since it s you 
who bid me. But mind you come to my aid, 
if Menexenus tries to baffle me. You know, 
don t you, that he s fond of a dispute. 

Oh yes, desperately, I know. And that s the 
very reason I want you to talk with him. 
That I make myself ridiculous, eh ? 
Oh dear no, Socrates, but that you may 
put him down. 

Put him down, indeed, cried I ; that s no 
such easy matter. He s a redoubtable man, 
this ; a scholar of Ctesippus s. And here s his 
master too himself to help him don t you 
see ? Ctesippus. 

Trouble yourself about no one," Socrates, he 
said ; but begin, attack him. 
As you will, said I. 

At this point of our by-play Ctesippus cried 
out, What s that you two there are feasting on 
by yourselves, without giving us a share ? 

Never fear, said I, you shall have a share. 
There s something I ve said that Lysis here 
doesn t understand. He says though, he 

L YS1S 137 

thinks Menexenus knows, and bids me ask 

Why don t you ask him then ? he rejoined. 

Just what I mean to do, I replied. Answer, 
Menexenus, the questions I ask. From my 
earliest childhood I have had a particular 
fancy ; every one has. One longs for horses, 
another for dogs, a third for money, a fourth 
for office. For my part, I look on these 
matters with equanimity, but on the acquisition 
of friends with all a lover s passion ; and I 
should like to get a good friend rather than 
the best quail or cock in the world ; I should 
prefer one to both horse and dog ; nay, I fully 
believe, that I would far sooner acquire a friend 
and companion, than all the gold of Darius, 
ay, or than Darius himself. So fond am I of 
friendship. On seeing therefore you and 212 
Lysis, I am lost in wonder, while I count you 
most happy, at your being able, at your years, 
to acquire this treasure with such readiness 
and ease ; in that you, Menexenus, have gained 
so early and true a friend in Lysis, and he the 
same in you ; while I, on the contrary, am so 
far from making the acquisition, that I do not 
even know how one man becomes the friend 
of another, but wish on this very point to 
appeal to you as a connoisseur. Answer me 
this. When one loves another, which of the 
two becomes the friend ? the lover of the loved, 
or the loved of the lover ? Or does it make 
no difference ? 

None in the world, that I can see, he replied. 

138 L YSIS 

How ? said I ; are both friends, if only one 
loves ? 

I think so, he answered. 

Indeed ! is it not possible for one who loves 
not to be loved in return by the object of his 

It is. 

Nay, is it not possible for him even to be 
hated ? treatment, if I mistake not, which 
lovers frequently fancy they receive at the 
hands of their favourites. Though they love 
their darlings as dearly as possible, they often 
imagine that they are not loved in return, often 
that they are even hated. Don t you believe 
this to be true ? 

Quite true, he replied. 

Well, in such a case as this, the one loves, 
the other is loved. 

Just so. 

Which of the two then is the friend of the 
other ? the lover of the loved, whether or no 
he be loved in return, and even if he be hated, 
or the loved of the lover ? or is neither the 
friend of the other, unless both love each 
other ? 

The latter certainly seems to be the case, 

If so, I continued, we think differently now 
from what we did before. Then it appeared 
that, if one loved, both were friends ; but now, 
that, unless both love, neither are friends. 

Yes, I m afraid we have contradicted our 

LYSIS 139 

This being the case then, the lover has not 
a friend in anything that does not love him in 

Apparently not. 

People then have not friends in horses, un 
less their horses love them in return, nor in 
quails, nor in dogs, nor again in wine or 
gymnastics, unless their love be returned ; nor 
in wisdom, unless wisdom loves them in return. 
But in each of these cases the individual loves 
the object, but has not a friend in it ; and the 
poet is wrong who says : 

Happy the man who has friends in his children, and 

solid-hoofed horses, 
Friends too in dogs of the chase, friends in a far-away 


I don t think he is wrong, Socrates. 

But do you think he s right ? 

Yes, I do. 

The lover then, it appears, Menexenus, has 
a friend in the object of his love, whether the 
object love, or even hate him. Just as quite 
young children, who are either not yet old 213 
enough to love, or are old enough even to feel 
hatred when punished by father or mother, are 
yet, at the very time that they are hating, friends 
to their parents in the very highest degree. 

Yes, such appears to be the case. 

By this reasoning then it is not the lover 
that is the friend, but the object of love. 


And so the object of hatred is the enemy, 
not the hater. 

1 40 LYSIS 


It frequently happens then that people are 
loved by their enemies, and hated by their 
friends ; that is, are friends to their enemies, 
and enemies to their friends ; if it be true that 
the loved is the friend, and not the lover. But 
surely, my dear Menexenus, it were grossly 
unreasonable, nay rather I think altogether 
impossible, for a man to be an enemy to his 
friend, and a friend to his enemy. 

Yes, Socrates, it does seem impossible. 

Well then, if this be impossible, it must be 
the lover that is the friend of the loved. 


And so again the hater must be the enemy 
of the object hated. 


But if this be true, we cannot help arriving 
at the same conclusion as we did in the former 
case ; namely, that it often happens that a man 
is a friend of one that is no friend, nay rather 
an enemy ; as often, that is as he is not loved, 
but even hated, by the man whom he loves : 
and often again, that he is an. enemy of one 
that is no enemy, but rather a friend ; as often, 
that is, as he is not hated, but even loved, by 
the man whom he hates. 

No, I am afraid we can t. 

What are we to do then, said I, if neither 
those who love are to be friends, nor those who 
are loved, nor, again, those who both love and are 
loved ? Are there any other people beside these 
that we can say become friends to each other ? 

LYSIS 141 

To tell you the truth, Socrates, said he, I 
don t see my way at all. 

Is it possible, Menexenus, said I, that from 
first to last we have been conducting our 
search improperly ? 

I am sure I think it is, Socrates, cried 
Lysis. And he blushed as he said so. For 
the words seemed to burst from him against 
his will in the intensity of the interest he was 
paying to the conversation ; an interest which 
his countenance had evinced all the time we 
were talking. 

I then, wishing to relieve Menexenus, and 
charmed with the other s intelligence, turned 
to Lysis, and directing my discourse to him, 
observed, Yes, Lysis, you are quite right, I 
think, in saying that, if we had conducted our 

irch properly, we should never have lost 
irselves in this manner. Let us proceed, 
however, on this line of inquiry no longer for 
I look upon it as a very difficult sort of road 
but let us go back again to that point at which 
we turned aside, and follow in the steps of the 
poets. For poets, I conceive, are as good as 214 
fathers and guides to us in matters of wisdom. 
\Vcll, the poets, if I mistake not, put forward 
no slight claims for those who happen to be 
friends, but tell us that it is God Himself who 
makes them friends, by leading them one to 
another. They express, if I remember right, 
their opinion thus 

Like men, I trow, to like God ever leads, 

142 L YSIS 

and makes them known. You have met with 
the verse, have you not ? 

Oh yes. 

And also with the writings of those learned 
sages which tell the same story ; namely, that 
like must of necessity be ever friendly with 
like. And these are they, if I mistake not, 
who talk and write on nature and the universe. 

True, they are. 

Well, do you think they are right in what 
they say ? I asked. 

Perhaps, said he. 

Perhaps, I answered, in half; perhaps too, 
even; in all ; only we don t understand. For, 
as it appears to us, the nearer wicked men 
come to each other, and the more they see of 
each other, the greater enemies they become. 
For they injure each other. And it is im 
possible, I take it, for men to be friends, if 
they injure and are injured in turn. 

So it is, he replied. 

By this then it would appear, that half of 
their assertion cannot be true, if we suppose 
them to mean that wicked men are like one 

So it would. 

But they mean to say, I imagine, that the 
good are like and friendly with the good ; but 
that the bad, as is remarked of them in another 
place, are not ever even like themselves, but 
are variable and not to be reckoned upon. 
And if a thing be unlike and at variance with 
itself, it will be long, I take it, before it be- 

L YSIS 143 

comes like to or friendly with anything else. 
Don t you think so too ? 
I do, he answered. 

When therefore, my friend, our authors 
assert that like is friendly with like, they mean, 
I imagine, to intimate, though obscurely enough, 
that the good man is a friend to the good man 
only ; but that the bad man never engages in 
a true friendship either with a good or a bad 
man. Do you agree? He nodded assent. 
We know then now, I continued, who it is 
that are friends ; for our argument shows us 
that it must be those who are good. 

Quite clearly too, I think, said he. 

And so do I, I rejoined. Still there is a 
something in the way that troubles me ; so let 
us, with the help of heaven, see what it is that 
I suspect. Like men are friendly with like 
men, in so far as they are like, and such a 
man is useful to such a man. Or rather, let 
us put it in this way. Is there any good or 
harm that a like thing can do to a like thing, 
which it cannot also do to itself ? is there 215 
any that can be done to it, which cannot also 
be clone to it by itself? And if not, how can 
such things be held in regard by each other, 
when they have no means of assisting one 
another ? Can this possibly be ? 

No, not possibly. 

And if a thing be not held in regard, can it 
be a friend ? 

Certainly not. 

But, you will say, the like man is not a 

144 L YSIS 

friend to the like man ; but the good will be a 
friend to the good, in so far as he is good, not 
in so far as he is like. 

Perhaps I may. 

And I should rejoin, Will not the good 
man, in so far as he is good, be found to be 
sufficient for himself? 


And if sufficient, he will want nothing so far 
as his sufficiency goes. 

Of course not. 

And if he does not want anything, he won t 
feel regard for anything either. 

To be sure not. 

And what he does not feel regard for, he 
cannot love. 

Not he. 

And if he does not love, he won t be a friend. 

Clearly not. 

How then, I wonder, will the good be ever 
friends at all with the good, when neither in 
absence do they feel regret for each other, 
being sufficient for themselves apart, nor when 
present together have they any need of one 
another ? Is there any possible way by which 
such people can be brought to care for each 
other ? 

None whatever. 

And if they do not care for each other, they 
cannot possibly be friends. 

True, they cannot 

Look and see then, Lysis, how we have 
been led into error ; if I mistake not, we are 

L YSIS 145 

deceived in the whole, and not only in the 

How so ? he asked. 

Once upon a time, I replied, I heard a 
statement made which has just this moment 
flashed across my mind ; it was, that nothing 
is so hostile to like as like, none so hostile to 
the good as the good. And among other 
arguments, my informant adduced the authority 
of Hesiod, telling me that, according to him, 

Potter ever jars with potter, bard with bard, and poor 
with poor. 

And so, he added, by a universal and infallible 
law the nearer any two things resemble one 
another, the fuller do they become of envy, 
strife, and hatred ; and the greater the dis 
similarity, the greater the friendship. For the 
poor are obliged to make themselves friends of 
the rich, and the weak of the strong, for the 
sake of their assistance ; the sick man also 
must be friendly with the physician ; and, in 
short, every one who is without knowledge 
must feel regard and affection for those who 
possess it. Nay, he proceeded with increased 
magnificence of position to assert, that the like 
was so far from being friendly with the like, 
that the exact opposite was the case ; the more 
any two things were contrary, the more were 
they friendly to each other. For everything, 
he says, craves for its contrary, and not for its 
like ; the dry craves for moisture, the cold for 
heat, the bitter for sweetness, the sharp for 

146 LYSIS 

bluntness, the empty to be filled, the full to be 
emptied. And everything else follows the 
same rule. For the contrary, he added, is 
food to the contrary, the like can derive no 
advantage from the like. And I can assure 
you I thought him extremely clever as he said 
216 all this ; he stated his case so well. But you, 
my friends, what do you think of it ? 

Oh, it seems very fair at first hearing, said 

Shall we admit then that nothing is so 
friendly to a thing as its contrary ? 

By all means. 

But if we do, Menexenus, will there not spring 
upon us suddenly and uncouthly and exultingly 
those universal-knowledge men, the masters of 
dispute, and ask us, whether there is anything 
in the world so contrary to enmity as friendship ? 
And if they do, what must be our answer ? Can 
we possibly help admitting that they are right ? 

No, we cannot. 

Well then, they will say, is friendship a 
friend to enmity, or enmity to friendship ? 

Neither one nor the other, he replied. 

But justice, I suppose, is a friend to injustice, 
temperance to intemperance, good to evil. 

No, I don t think this can be the case. 

Well but, I rejoined, if one thing is friend 
to another thing in virtue of being its contrary, 
these things must of necessity be friendly. 

So they must, he allowed. 

It follows then, I think, that neither like is 
friendly with like, nor contrary with contrary. 

LYSIS 147 

Apparently it does. 

Well then, said I, let us look again, and see 

whether we be not still as far as ever from 

rinding friendship, since it is clearly none of 

icse things I have mentioned, but whether 

lat which is neither good nor evil may not 

possibly turn out, however late, to be friendly 

with the good. 

How do you mean ? he asked. 
Why, to tell you the truth, said I, I don t 
know myself, being quite dizzied by the en 
tanglement of the subject. I am inclined though 
to think that, in the words of the old proverb, 
the Beautiful is friendly. Certainly the friendly 
has the appearance of being something soft 
and smooth and slippery ; and probably it is 
from being of this character that it slides and 
slips through our fingers so easily. Now I 
am of this opinion, because the good, I assert, 
is beautiful. Don t you think so ? 
I do, said he. 

I further assert, with a diviner s foresight, 
that to the beautiful and good that which is 
neither good nor evil is friendly. And my 
reasons for divining this I will tell you. I con 
ceive I recognise three distinct classes, good, 
evil, and, thirdly, that which is neither good 
nor evil. Do you allow this distinction ? 
I do. 

Now that good is friendly with good, or evil 
with evil, or good with evil, we are hindered 
by our previous arguments from believing. It 
remains then that, if there be anything friendly 

148 L YSIS 

with anything, that which is neither good nor 
evil must be friendly either with the good or 
with that which resembles itself. For nothing, 
I am sure, can be friendly with evil. 


But neither can like be friendly with like ; 
this we also said, did we not ? 

We did. 

That then which is neither good nor evil 
will not be friendly with that which resembles 

Clearly not. 

It follows then, I conceive, that friendship 
can only exist between good and that which is 
neither evil nor good. 
217 Necessarily, as it appears. 

What think you then, my children, I pro 
ceeded to say; is our present position guiding us 
in a right direction ? If we look attentively, we 
perceive that a body which is in health has no 
need whatever of the medical art or of any 
assistance ; for it is sufficient in itself. And 
therefore no one in health is friendly with a 
physician on account of his health. 

Just so, he replied. 

But the sick man zs, I imagine, on account 
of his sickness. 


Sickness, you will allow, is an evil ; the art 
of medicine both useful and good. 


But a body, if I mistake not, in so far as it 
is a body, is neither good nor evil. 

L YSIS 149 


A body though is compelled, on account of 
sickness, to embrace and love the medical art. 
I think so. 

That then which is neither evil nor good 
becomes friendly with good, on account of the 
presence of evil. 

But evidently it becomes so, before it is it 
self made evil by the evil which it contains ; 
for, once become evil, it can no longer, you 
will allow, be desirous of or friendly with good ; 
for evil, we said, cannot possibly be friendly 
with good. 

No, it cannot possibly. 

Now mark what I say. I say that some 
things are themselves such as that which is 
present with them, some things are not such. 
For example, if you dye a substance with any 
colour, the colour which is dyed in is present, 
I imagine, with the substance which is dyed. 
To be sure it is. 

After the process then, is the dyed substance 
such, in point of colour, as that which is 
applied ? 

I don t understand, he said. 
But you will thus, said I. If any one were 
to dye your locks of gold with white-lead, 
would they, after the dyeing, be, or appear, 
white ? 

And yet whiteness would, at any rate, be 
present with them. 



But still they would not, as yet, be at all the 
more white on that account ; but though white 
ness is present with them, they are neither 
white nor black. 


But when, my dear Lysis, old age has 
brought upon them this same colour, then they 
become really such as that which is present with 
them, white by the presence of white. 

Yes, indeed they do. 

This then is the question I want to ask. 
If a thing be present in a substance, will the 
substance be such as that which is present 
with it : or will it be such, if the thing is pre 
sent under certain conditions ; under certain 
conditions, not ? 

The latter rather, said he. 

That then which is neither evil nor good is, 
in some cases, when evil is present with it, not 
evil as yet ; in other cases it has already be 
come such. 


Well then, said I, when it is not evil as yet, 
though evil be present with it, this very pres 
ence of evil makes it desirous of good ; but the 
presence which makes it evil deprives it, at the 
same time, of its desire and friendship for 
218 good. For it is no longer a thing neither evil 
nor good, but already evil ; and evil, we said, 
cannot be friendly with good. 
True, it cannot be. 

On the same ground then we may further 


assert, that those who are already wise are no 
longer friends to wisdom, be they gods, or be 
they men; nor, again, are those friends to 
wisdom who are so possessed of foolishness as 
to be evil ; for no evil and ignorant man is a 
friend to wisdom. There remain then those 
who possess indeed this evil, the evil of fool 
ishness, but who are not, as yet, in consequence 
of it, foolish or ignorant, but still understand 
that they do not know the things they do not 
know. And thus, you see, it is those who are 
neither good nor evil, as yet, that are friends 
to wisdom (philosophers), but those who are evil 
are not friends ; nor again are the good. For 
that contrary is not friendly with contrary, nor 
like with like, was made apparent in the former 
part of our discourse. Do you remember ? 
Oh perfectly, they both cried. 
Now then, Lysis and Menexenus, I continued, 
we have, as it appears, discovered, beyond a 
dispute, what it is that is friendly, and not 
friendly. Whether in respect of the soul, or of 
the body, or of anything else whatsoever, that, 
we pronounce, which is neither evil nor good 
is friendly with good on account of the presence 
of evil. To this conclusion they both yielded 
a hearty and entire assent. 

For myself, I was rejoicing, with all a hunter s 
delight, at just grasping the prey I had been 
so long in chase of, when presently there came 
into my mind, from what quarter I cannot tell, 
the strangest sort of suspicion. It was, that 
the conclusions to which we had arrived were 

152 LYSIS 

not true ; and, sorely discomfited, I cried, 
Alack-a-day, Lysis, alack, Menexenus ; we 
have, I fear me, but dreamed our treasure. 

Why so ? said Menexenus. 

I am afraid, I answered, that, just as if with 
lying men, we have fallen in with some such 
false reasonings in our search after friendship. 

How do you mean ? he asked. 

Look here, said I. If a man be a friend, is 
he a friend to some one, or not ? 

To some one, of course. 

For the sake of nothing, and on account of 
nothing, or for the sake and on account of 
something ? 

For the sake and on account of something. 

Is that thing a friend, or loved, for the 
sake of which he is a friend to his friend, or is 
it neither friend nor foe ? 

I don t quite follow, he said. 

No wonder, said I ; but perhaps you will if 
we take this course ; and I too, I think, shall 
better understand what I am saying. The sick 
man, as we just now said, is a friend of the 
physician. Is he not ? 

He is. 

On account of sickness, for the sake of 
health ? 


Sickness is an evil ? 

Beyond a doubt. 

But what is health ? I asked ; a good, an 
evil, or neither one nor the other ? 

A good, he replied. 


We further stated, I think, that the body, 219 
a thing neither good nor evil, is, on account of 
sickness, that is to say, on account of an evil, 

a friend of the medical art. And the medical 

art is a good ; and it is for the sake of health 
that the medical art has acquired this friendship ; 
and health is a good, is it not ? 
It is. 

Is health a friend, or not a friend? loved, I 
mean, or not loved ? 
A friend. 

And sickness a foe ? 
Most decidedly. 

That then it appears, which is neither good 
nor evil, is a friend of a good on account of an 
evil which is a foe, for the sake of a good 
which is a friend ? 
So it seems. 

The friend then is a friend for the sake of 
that which is a friend, on account of that 
which is a foe ? 

Very well, said I. But arrived as we are, I 
added, at this point, let us pay all heed, my 
children, that we be not misled. That friend 
is become friend to friend, that is to say, that 
like is become friend to like, which we declared 
to be impossible, is a matter I will allow to 
pass ; but there is another point which we 
must attentively consider, in order that we 
may not be deceived by our present position. 
The medical art, we said, is a friend, or loved 
thing, for the sake of health. 

154 LYSIS 

We did. 

Is health a friend too ? 

To be sure it is. 

For the sake of something ? 


For the sake of something then which is a 
friend, if this too is to follow our previous 
admission ? 

Certainly. But will not that something too 
be a friend for the sake of some other thing 
which is a friend ? 


Can we possibly help then being weary of 
going on in this manner ; and is it not necessary 
that we advance at once to a beginning, which 
will not again refer us to friend upon friend, 
but arrive at that which in the first instance 
is a friend, or loved, and for the sake of which 
we say that all the rest are loved ? 

It is necessary, he answered. 

This, then, is what I say we must consider, 
in order that all those other things, which we 
said were loved, for the sake of that one thing, 
may not, like so many shadows .of it, lead us 
into error, but that we may establish that 
thing as the first, which is really and truly 
loved. For let us view the matter thus : If a 
man sets a high value upon a thing ; for in 
stance, if, as is frequently the case, a father 
prizes a son above everything else he has in 
the world, may such a father be led by the ex 
treme regard he has for his son, to set a high 
value upon other things also ? Suppose, for 

LYSIS 155 

example, he were to hear of his having drunk 
some hemlock ; would he set a high value on 
wine, if he believed that wine would cure his 
son ? 

Of course he would. 

And on the vessel also which contained the 
wine ? 

Do you mean to say, then, that he sets an 
equal value on both, on a cup of earthenware 
and his own son, on his own son and a quart 
of wine ? Or is the truth rather thus ? all such 
value as this is set not on those things which are 
procured for the sake of another thing, but on 
that for the sake of which all such things are 220 
procured. We often talk, I do not deny, about 
setting a high value on gold and silver ; but is 
the truth on this account at all the more thus ? 
No, what we value supremely is that, whatever 
it may be found to be, for the sake of which 
gold, and all other subsidiaries, are procured. 
Shall we not say so ? 

And does not the same reasoning hold with 
regard to friendship? When we say we are 
friends to things for the sake of a thing which 
is a friend to us, do we not clearly use a term 
with regard to them which belongs to another ? 
And does not that only seem to be really a 
friend in which all these so-called friendships 
terminate ? 

Yes, he said, this would appear to be the 

156 LYSIS 

Therefore that which is really a friend, or 
loved, is not loved for the sake of another loved 

Clearly not. 

This point then we dismiss as sufficiently 
proved. But to proceed, is good a friend ? 
I imagine so. 

And good is loved on account of evil, and 
the case stands thus. If, of the three classes 
that we just now distinguished, good, evil, and 
that which is neither evil nor good, two only 
were to be left to us, but evil were to be re 
moved out of our path, and were never again 
to come in contact either with body or soul, or 
any other of these things, which in themselves 
we say are neither good nor evil, would it not 
come to pass that good would no longer be 
useful to us, but have become useless ? for if 
there were nothing any more to hurt us, we 
should have no need whatever of any assistance. 
And thus you see it would then be made 
apparent that it was only on account of evil 
that we felt regard and affection for good, as 
we considered good to be a medicine for evil, 
and evil to be a disease ; but where there is 
no disease, there is, we are aware, no need of 
medicine. This, then, it appears, is the nature 
of good ; it is loved on account of evil by us 
who are intermediate between evil and good ; 
but in itself, and for itself, it is of no use. 

Yes, he said, such would seem to be the 

It follows then, I think, that that final friend 

LYSIS 157 

of ours, in which terminated all the other 
things which we said were friends for the sake 
of another friend, bears to those things no re 
semblance at all. For these things are called 
friends for the sake of a friend, but our true 
friend appears to be of a nature exactly the 
reverse of this ; for it was found to be our 
friend for the sake of an enemy : but, if the 
enemy were removed, no longer, as it seems, 
do we possess a friend. 

Apparently not, said he, according at least 
to our present position. 

But tell me this, said I. If evil be extin 
guished, will it no longer be possible to feel 
hunger or thirst, or any similar desire ? or will 221 
hunger exist, as long as man and the whole 
animal creation exists, but exist without being 
hurtful? And will thirst too and all other 
desires exist, but not be evil, inasmuch as evil 
is extinct ? 

It is ridiculous though to ask what will exist 
or not exist in such a case; for who can know? 
but this at any rate we do know, that even at 
present it is possible for a man to be injured by 
the sensation of hunger, and possible for him 
also to be profited. Is it not ? 
Certainly it is. 

And so, too, a man who feels thirst, or any 
similar desire, may feel it in some cases with 
profit to himself, in other cases with hurt, and 
in other cases again, with neither one nor the 

Assuredly he may. 

158 LYSIS 

Well, if evil is being extinguished, is there 
any reason in the world for things that are not 
evil to be extinguished with it ? 
None whatever. 

There will exist then those desires which are 
neither evil nor good, even if evil be extinct. 

Is it possible for a man who is desirous and 
enamoured not to love that of which he is 
desirous and enamoured ? 
I think not. 

There will exist then, it appears, even if evil 
be extinct, certain things which are friends, or 

Yes, there will. 

But if evil were the cause of a thing being 
loved, it would not be possible, when evil was 
extinct, for anything to be loved by anything ; 
for if a cause be extinct, surely it is no longer 
possible for that to exist of which it was the 

True, it is not. 

But above we agreed that the friend loved 
something, and on account of something, and 
at the same time we were of opinion, that it was 
on account of evil, that that, which is neither 
good nor evil, loved the good. 
So we were. 

But now, it appears, we have discovered 
some other cause of loving and being loved. 
So it does. 

Is it true then, as we were just now saying, 
that desire is the cause of friendship, and that 

LYSIS 159 

whatever desires is friendly to that which it 
desires, and friendly at the time of its feeling 
the desire ; and was all that, which we pre 
viously said about being friendly, mere idle 
talk, put together after the fashion of a lengthy 
poem ? 

I am afraid it was, he replied. 

But that, I continued, which feels desire, feels 
desire for that of which it is in want. Does it 
not ? 


And that which is in want is a friend of that 
of which it is in want. 

I imagine so. 

And becomes in want of that which is taken 
from it ? 

Of course. 

That then which belongs to a man is found, 
it seems, Lysis and Menexenus, to be the object 
of his love, and friendship, and desire. 

They both assented. 

If then you two are friends to one another, 
by some tie of nature you belong to each other ? 

To be sure we do, they cried together. 

And so in general, said I, if one man, my 
children, is desirous and enamoured of another, 
he can never have conceived his desire, or love, 222 
or friendship, without in some way belonging, 
or being akin, to the object of his love, either 
in his soul, or in some quality of his soul, or in 
disposition, or in form. 

I quite believe you, cried Menexenus ; but 
Lysis said not a word. 

160 LYSIS 

Well then, I continued, that which by nature 
belongs to us it has been found necessary for us 
to love. 

So it appears, said Menexenus. 

It cannot possibly be then, but that a true 
and genuine lover is loved in return by the 
object of his love. To this conclusion Lysis 
and Menexenus nodded a sort of reluctant 
assent, while Hippothales in his rapture kept 
changing from colour to colour. 

I, however, with a view of reconsidering the 
subject, proceeded to say, Well, if there is a 
difference between that which belongs to us 
and that which is like, we are now, I conceive, 
in a condition to say what is meant by a friend ; 
but if they happen to be the same, it s no such 
easy matter to get rid of our former assertion, 
that like was useless to like, in so far as it was 
like ; for to admit ourselves friendly with that 
which is useless, were outrageous. What say 
you then, said I, since we are, as it were, in 
toxicated by our talk, to our allowing that there 
is a difference between that which belongs and 
that which is like ? 

Let us do so by all means, he replied. 

Shall we further say, that good belongs to 
every one, and that to every one evil is a 
stranger ; or rather, that good belongs to good, 
evil to evil, and that which is neither evil nor 
good, to that which is of the same nature ? 

They both agreed that the latter was their 
opinion in each particular. 

It appears then, said I, that we have fallen 



again into positions with regard to friendship, 
which we previously rejected. For, according 
to our present admission, the unjust will be no 
less friendly to the unjust, and the evil no less 
friendly to the evil, than the good to the 

So it would appear, said he. 

And again, said I, if we assert, that what is 
good, and what belongs to us, are one and the 
same, will it not result that none are friendly 
with the good but the good ? And this too, I 
think, is a position in which we imagined that 
we proved ourselves wrong. Don t you re 
member ? 

Oh yes, they both cried. 

What other way then is left us of treating 
the subject? Clearly none. I therefore, like 
our clever pleaders at the bar, request you to 
reckon up all that I have said. If neither those 
who love or are loved, neither the like nor the 
unlike, nor the good, nor those who belong to 
us, nor any other of all the suppositions which 
we passed in review they are so numerous 
that I can remember no more if, I say, not 
one of them is the object of friendship I no 
longer know what I am to say. 

With this confession, I was just on the point 
of rousing to my aid one of the elders of our 
party, when all of a sudden, like beings of 
another world, there came down upon us the 
attendants of Menexenus and Lysis, holding 
their brothers by the hand, and calling out to 
the young gentlemen to come home, as it was 


already late. At first, both we and the by 
standers were for driving them off ; but rinding 
that they did not mind us at all, but grumbled 
at us in sad Greek, and persisted in calling the 
boys ; fancying moreover that from having 
tippled at the feast they would prove awkward 
people to deal with, we owned ourselves van 
quished, and broke up the party. 

However, just as they were leaving, I managed 
to call out, Well, Lysis and Menexenus, we 
have made ourselves rather ridiculous to-day, 
I, an old man, and you, children. For our 
hearers here will carry away the report, that 
though we conceive ourselves to be friends with 
each other you see I class myself with you 
we have not as yet been able to discover what 
we mean by a friend. 



SOCRATES meets an acquaintance in the streets of 309 
Athens, and tells him that he has just been talking with 
the great Sophist Protagoras. The acquaintance, much 
interested, begs for a detailed account of the conversa 
tion ; and Socrates, nothing loth, begins. 

This morning, he says, before it was light, our young 310 
friend Hippocrates so eager was he came rushing 
into my house to tell me the grand news that Hippo 
crates was come to Athens, and to beg me to introduce 
him as a pupil to the great man, who was staying, he 
said, with Callias, the son of Hipponicus. I rose and 
went with him, but took occasion on the way to sift my 
young friend ; to elicit from him what he wanted to be 
come by taking lessons from Protagoras ; and to warn 
him of the terrible risk he ran by committing his soul 
into the charge of a person, of whom he knew so little, 
as he did of this money-making stranger. 

Thus talking we arrived at the house ; and there we 315 
found Protagoras parading in a portico, accompanied 
by Callias our host, the sons of Pericles, and a few 
other distinguished men, and followed in his walk by 
a train of worshippers. In other parts of the house 
were Hippias of Elis, and Prodicus of Ceos, each with 
an admiring eoterie ; and just after us Alcibiades came 
in with Critias, the son of Callceschrus. But soon we 
all gathered into one room, and formed a sort of divan 
round Protagoras. 

I began by introducing Hippocrates. And please 318 


tell us, 1 I added, what you will make of him ? Prota 
goras replied, A better man. No doubt ; but in 
what will he be better? He will be better able to 
manage his own affairs and those of the State. You 
profess then as a Sophist, I said, to make him a good 
citizen? Precisely so, 1 he replied. A glorious 
profession truly, I rejoined ; but can such virtue be 
taught ? For my part, I doubt ; firstly, because the 
State allows men, who have never been taught politics, 
to give advice on public affairs, though it would never 
allow a man, who knew nothing of carpentering, to give 
advice on the same ; secondly, because our best citi 
zens, as Pericles for instance, have not been able to im 
part their virtues to their children. 

320 To these objections Protagoras replied at some 
length, I will begin, he said, with the story of 
Prometheus and Epimetheus on the origin of man. 
Prometheus, as you know, distributed the arts of life 
among men, giving skill in each only to a favoured few. 
But these arts not proving sufficient to keep men alive 
in their struggle with wild beasts and with each other, 
Zeus afterwards sent Hermes to them with Justice and 
the Sense of Shame, ordering him not to impart them to 
a few only, but to spread them broadcast among men. 
For without a portion of these, he said, in the heart of 
every man, human society cannot hold together. And 
so strongly is this felt now that, while a man is thought 
a madman for professing skill on the flute if he cannot 
play the flute, he is equally thought a madman for pro 
fessing to be unjust, though he really be so. This 
then is my answer to your objection, that only profes 
sionals are allowed to speak with authority on the arts ; 
whereas all men, be they tinkers or cobblers, are invited 
to discuss a question of political virtue. 

323 Secondly. That virtue can be taught is shown by 
the very idea of punishment. We punish that we may 
make the criminal better, and deter others from crime. 
What is this but teaching virtue ? 

324 Thirdly. You object that good men don t teach their 
sons to be good. But, though the teaching may not be 
successful, the sons most assuredly are taught. From 


the very moment they are born they are taught virtue by 
some one, by mother or nurse, by tutor or father ; and 
when they are sent to school, nothing is held of so much 
account as good conduct ; and when they have left 
school, the State takes them in hand, and leads them by 
its laws on the same lines. It is true that they don t 
always turn out well ; that good fathers, as you say, 
don t always have good sons. But that is the fault of 
nature rather than of teaching. If everybody learnt to 
play the flute, the sons of the best flute-players would 
not necessarily play the flute best, but those who had a 
natural taste for flute-playing. And so with political 
virtue at Athens. The most virtuous men will not 
necessarily be the sons of the most virtuous, but those 
who have the best natural disposition to virtue. Still 
the worst men among us the most worthless dema 
gogues of the day will have more idea of virtue than 
the untaught savage who has never heard of virtue at 
all. No, Socrates, it is not true that virtue cannot be 
taught ; it is not true that there are no teachers of 
virtue. On the contrary, we are all teachers. Only it 
so happens that I am rather better than most, and 
therefore can earn a higher fee. 

With these words the orator ceased, and I sat en- 328 
chanted. Recovering myself, however, I congratulated 
him on the almost unique power he possessed, not only 
of making long speeches, but also of answering ques 
tions point by point. So I proceeded to try him with a 
question or two. Protagoras, I said, you have 
spoken of virtue. Is virtue one or many ? Are the 
several virtues parts of a whole, or different names of 
the same thing? 1 Parts of a whole, he replied; 
1 much in the same way as the nose and mouth, for 
instance, are parts of the face. And they are unlike 
each other, much as the parts of the face are unlike each 
other. But, I asked, is it not the nature of justice 
to be just, and of holiness to be holy? If then justice 
and holiness are unlike each other, justice is unholy and 
holiness unjust. Protagoras could not agree to this; 
and seeing he was vexed, I left this point, and went on 
to another. 


332 YOU said, I think, that the several virtues were dis 
tinct ; wisdom, for instance, and discretion. Now, do 
you admit that each thing has only one opposite? I 
do. 1 Well then, folly has wisdom for its opposite ; 
but what of acting discreetly is that foolish ? Cer 
tainly not. Then discretion is opposite to folly? 
Apparently. Then folly, it seems, has her oppo- 
sites, discretion and wisdom ; but as one thing has only 
one opposite, it follows that discretion and wisdom are 
the same ; and therefore you were mistaken in saying 
they were distinct. 

334 I was proceeding to make him admit that there was 
not much distinction either between justice and discre 
tion : but our friend, nettled by the results of my ques - 
tioning, branched off into a rhetorical display on the 
nature of Good, which the audience received with much 
applause. So, finding I could not keep him to the 
point, and pleading my inability to follow a long speech, 
I rose to depart ; but was detained by our host, who was 
good enough to say that my going would spoil the party, 
but at the same time maintained that it was unreason 
able in me to refuse to Protagoras the liberty which 
I claimed myself ; namely, that each of us should speak 
as he liked. 

On this Alcibiades rushed to my rescue, and others 
took part in the debate ; Critias, in a few words, advis 
ing mutual concession ; Prodicus making a sententious 
harangue, enlivened with his favourite verbal distinc 
tions ; and Hippias proposing an umpire. To this I 
demurred ; but I was ready, I said, to answer any ques 
tion that Protagoras might like to ask, if he in turn 
would answer me. And to this he reluctantly agreed. 

339 Socrates, he began, I propose transferring our 
discussion on virtue to the region of Poetry. You know 
Simonides of Ceos. He says, if you remember, in 
one of his poems, Tis hard to become good. " Is he 
correct in saying so? Yes, I replied. And yet he 
reproaches Pittacus with saying, "Tis hard to be 
good." Surely in this there is some contradiction? 
To meet this attack I called on Prodicus, a Cean him 
self, to come to the aid of his countryman ; and, sup- 


ported by him, I showed there was no contradiction, as 
there was a difference between being and becoming. 
And Pittacus would gladly have backed me up in other 
verbal refinements, as, for instance, on the meaning of 
the word hard, only I offered instead to give my own 
notion of the real aim of Simonides in writing the 
poem ; a proposal which met with general assent. 

So I began : Those great old philosophers, the ,342 
Lacedemonians for great philosophers they were and 
arc, though the fact is not generally known held pith 
and brevity to be the soul of philosophy. And it was 
in admiration of this Lacedaemonian model that the 
Seven Sages uttered their brief and memorable sayings ; 
among whom Pittacus of Mitylene won great fame 
by his contribution, " Tis hard to be good." But 
Simonides, thinking that he would make a reputation 
at once by attacking and demolishing so venerable a 
dictum, wrote his entire poem against it, showing that 
Pittacus was wrong in using the word " l>e," for to the 
gods alone is it possible to be good. He ought instead 
to have said " become ; " as for a man to become good 
is hard indeed, but not impossible. 

When I had finished my exposition of the poem, 347 
Hippias wished to favour us with one of his own ; but 
Alcibiades insisted that the original discussion should be 
resumed. So after begging Protagoras to drop the 
poets, who deserved, I said, no more than flute-girls to 
be admitted into the social intercourse of gentlemen and 
scholars ; and after complimenting Protagoras on his 
well-merited eminence as a teacher of wisdom, I went 
back to the former question, whether the virtues were 
one or many. 

And in reply to this Protagoras seemed now to admit 349 
that of the five virtues wisdom, discretion, courage, 
justice, and holiness four were pretty much alike ; but 
that the fifth, courage, was very different from the rest. 
But, said I, are not the courageous daring? And 
are not men daring in that of which they have know 
ledge or wisdom, as diving, for instance, or riding, or 
Shooting ? And does not this show that courage and 
knowledge, or wisdom, are pretty nearly the same? 


This conclusion, however, he tried to evade by a fluent 
harangue on the distinction we should draw between 
courage and daring. 

351 So I proceeded to approach him from another side. 
Is pleasure, I asked, the only good, and pain the 
only evil ? He did not seem to consider this definition 
quite moral, but would rather say, with men in general, 
that some pleasures were good, and some pains evil. 
Let us look into the question, I said, more closely, 
and perhaps this may help us to solve it. We have 
been speaking of knowledge. Do you agree too with 
men generally in thinking that knowledge is often over 
powered by passion ? or do you consider knowledge to 
be power? Certainly I do, he replied, and of all 
things the most powerful. But this is not the common 
opinion, I urged. It is generally thought that men, 
who know what is best, are yet often induced by pleasure 
or passion to act contrary to their knowledge. Such, 
indeed, is the opinion of the world ; but it is not mine, 
nor, should I say, is it yours, Protagoras. You and I 
think do we not ? that pleasure, so far as it pleases, 
is certainly good ; it is only an evil, because it may end 
in pain. And pain, on the other hand, so far as it is 
painful, is certainly evil ; it is only good because it may 
end in pleasure. Thus pleasure and good are really 
identical, and so are pain and evil. Only a measuring 
art is wanted to measure the exact results of an act. If 
in the long run the act produces more pleasure than 
pain, then it is good ; if more pain than pleasure, then 
it is evil. And this measuring art is a sort of know 
ledge : and thus knowledge is found to be that which 
governs life, and ignorance to be the source of evil. 
And now let us apply this result of ours to courage. If 
it is only through ignorance of what is best that men 
choose the evil and refuse the good, then the reason 
why cowards refuse to go to war is simply because they 
form a wrong estimate, and the reason why the brave 
are ready to go to war is simply because they form a 
right estimate, of that which ought really to be feared. 
What then is courage but knowledge, and what is 
cowardice but ignorance? And thus the five virtues, 



which you maintained at first to be different, are now 
seen to be only one. And to this conclusion Protagoras 
could not but assent. 

I then proceeded to notice the whimsical change of 361 
front which had taken place in our controversy. You, 
Protagoras, I said, maintained, and I denied, that 
virtue could be taught. But now I have shown that . 
virtue is knowledge, which is of all things the most 
teachable; while you, Protagoras, have argued that virtue 
is not knowledge, which is almost the same as saying 
that it cannot be taught. Now, I cannot say that this 
is a satisfactory result, and should like, if you have no 
objection, to probe the matter more deeply. But 
Protagoras, with a few kind words on my earnestness 
and skill in discussion, pleaded another engagement ; 
and so our party broke up. 



Friend. Ha, Socrates, where do you appear 
from ? though I can hardly doubt that it~ fs 
from a chase after the fair Alcibiades. Well, 
I saw the man only the other day, and I can 
assure you I thought him looking still beautiful ; 
though between ourselves, Socrates, he is a man 
by this time, and his chin is getting pretty well 
covered with beard. 

Soc. And what of that ? Sure you don t 
disapprove of Homer s assertion, that no age 
is so graceful as the beardling s prime. And 
this is just the age of Alcibiades. 

Fr. Be that as it may, Socrates, I want to 
know about matters now. Is it from him that 
you make your appearance, and how is the 
youth disposed towards you ? 

Soc. Very well, I think, and never better 
than to-day. For he has been taking my side, 
and saying a great deal in my favour. And in 
point of fact, I have only just left him. I have, 
however, something strange to tell you. Though 
he was in the room all the while, he was so far 


from engrossing my attention, that I frequently 
forgot his existence altogether. 

Fr. Why, whatever can have happened be 
tween you and him, to produce such an effect 
as this ? You surely don t mean to say that 
you have met with any one more beautiful here 
in Athens ? 

Soc. Yes I do, much more beautiful. 

Fr. More beautiful! a citizen or a foreigner? 

Soc. A foreigner. 

Fr. From what country ? 

Soc. Abdera. 

Fr. And did this stranger really appear to 
you so beautiful a person, that you accounted 
him more beautiful than the son of Clinias ? 

Soc. Indeed he did. For how, my good 
friend, can the supremely wise fail of being 
accounted more beautiful ? 

Fr. Ho, ho, Socrates, you have just left one 
of our wise men, have you ? 

Soc. Say, rather, the wisest man of the pre 
sent day, unless you would refuse this title to 

Fr. Protagoras, do you say ? is he in 
Athens ? 

Soc. He is, and has been here now two days. 

Fr. And you are just come, I suppose, from 
31O his company ? 

Soc. Yes, and from a very long conversa 
tion with him. 

Fr. Oh pray repeat it to us then, unless you 
have something to hinder you. Just turn out 
this boy, and sit down in his place. 


Soc. With all my heart ; and I shall be 
much obliged to you for listening. 

Fr. And I am sure we shall be so to you 
for speaking. 

Soc. The obligation then will be mutual. 
I will therefore begin. 

Last night, or rather very early this morning, 
Hippocrates, the son of Apollodorus, and brother 
of Phason, came and knocked very violently at 
my door with his stick ; and, as soon as they 
opened to him, rushed into the house in the 
greatest haste, calling out with a loud voice, 
Socrates, are you awake or asleep ? Recog 
nising his voice, I said to myself, Ho, Hippo 
crates here ; turning to him, Have you any 
news ? 

None but what is good, he answered. 

So much the better, I rejoined. But what is 
the matter ; what has made you come here so 
early ? 

Protagoras is arrived ; said he, standing by 
my side. 

Yes, the day before yesterday, I replied ; 
have you only just heard it ? 

Only just, I assure you, only last night. 
While thus speaking, he felt about the bed on 
which I lay, and sitting down at my feet, con 
tinued, Only yesterday evening, on my return 
at a very late hour from Q{noe. For my slave 
Satyrus ran away ; and I was just going to tell 
you that I meant to pursue him, when some 
thing else came into my head, and I forgot it. 
And when I came back, it was not till we had 


supped and were going to bed, that my brother 
informed me of the arrival of Protagoras. 
Whereupon, late as it was, I started up with 
the intention of coming immediately to you, 
but on second thoughts it seemed too far gone 
in the night. As soon, however, as sleep re 
leased me after my fatigue, I rose up at once 
and hurried here. 

On hearing this, being well acquainted with 
my friend s vehement and excitable nature, I 
said to him, Well, what does this matter to 
you ? does Protagoras do you any harm ? 

Yes, that he does, said he with a laugh ; he 
keeps his wisdom to himself, and does not 
make me wise. 

But I have no doubt, said I, that if you only 
give him money enough, he will make you wise 

I would, ye gods ! he cried, it only depended 
on this ; if it did, I would not spare the last 
farthing of my own fortune, or of my friends 
either. But in point of fact, Socrates, the very 
object I have in coming here now is to ask you 
to speak to him on my behalf. For, to say 
nothing of my being so young, I have never 
even seen Protagoras in my life, or heard him 
speak ; for I was quite a boy when he was here 
before. However, all the world applaud the 
311 man, and say that he is wonderfully clever in 
discourse. So pray let us go to him at once, 
that we may find him in doors. He is staying, 
I am told, with Callias, the son of Hipponicus. 
Let us start. 


Not yet, said I, it is too early. Rather let 
us turn into the court here, and walk about and 
talk, till it is light. And then we can go. For 
Protagoras seldom stirs out ; so that you need 
not be afraid, we shall in all probability find 
him at home. 

After this we rose up from the bed, and went 
out into the court. And while we were walking 
up and down, with a view of trying the strength 
of Hippocrates, I sifted him with the following 
questions. Hippocrates, said I, you are now 
proposing to call upon Protagoras, and pay him 
a sum of money as a fee for your attendance. 
Now tell me ; in what capacity, on his part, do 
you mean to visit him, and what do you expect 
to become yourself by so doing? Take a 
similar case. If you had conceived the idea of 
going to your namesake Hippocrates of Cos, of 
the house of the Asclepiads, and paying him a 
sum of money as a fee for your tuition ; and if 
you were to be asked what Hippocrates was, 
that you meant to pay him this money, what 
should you answer ? 

(I should say, he replied, a physician. 
And what do you expect to become ? 
A physician, he answered. 
Again, if you had taken it into your head to 
go to Polyclitus of Argos or our Athenian 
Phidias, and pay them a fee for your tuition, 
and you were to be asked, what Polyclitus and 
Phidias were, that you intended to pay them 
this money, what should you reply ? 
Statuaries, of course. 



And what do you expect to become yourself? 

A statuary, to be sure. 

Well, said I, here are you and I now going 
to Protagoras ; and when arrived there we 
shall be prepared to pay him a sum of money 
as a fee for your tuition. If our own funds 
prove adequate to his demand, so much the 
better ; if they are deficient, we shall not 
hesitate to drain the purses of our friends. 
Now, suppose some man were to see us thus 
earnestly bent on the matter, and to say, My 
good friends, Socrates and Hippocrates, what 
do you mean to pay Protagoras as ? Tell me, 
what would be our answer to this question ? 
What distinct name is currently given to Pro 
tagoras, in the same way that the name of 
statuary is given to Phidias, and of poet to 
Homer? what analogous designation do we 
hear applied to Protagoras ? 

Well, there is no denying, he replied, that 
men do call our friend a sophist. 

It is then, I suppose, as a sophist that we 
are going to pay him our monies. 


Now, suppose you were further asked, And 
312 what do you expect to become yourself, that 
you go to Protagoras ? At this he blushed. 
By this time there was just a glimpse of day, 
so that I could see his face. Why, said he, if 
this be at all like the two former cases, it is 
clear that I must expect to become a 

And should not you, I solemnly asked, be 


ashamed of showing yourself as a sophist in the 
eyes of Greece ? 

Yes, Socrates, I certainly should, if I must 
speak what I really think. 

But possibly, Hippocrates, you are of opinion 
that the instructions to be afforded by Prota 
goras will not be given on this sort of principle, 
but rather resemble those you received from 
your masters in writing and music and gym 
nastics. For you were instructed in each of 
these latter professions, not with a view of 
becoming a craftsman therein yourself, but of 
obtaining the education which is deemed proper 
for an unprofessional gentleman. 

Yes, Socrates, said he, I am quite of opinion 
that this is rather the character of Protagoras s 

Are you aware then, I asked, what you are 
now about to do, or are you blind ? 

To what ? 

Blind to the fact, that you are about to con 
sign your soul to the care of a man, who is, 
you say, a sophist, while what in the world 
such sophist is, you know not, or I am much 
surprised. And yet, if you know not this, 
neither do you know to what you are abandon 
ing your soul, whether it be to a good or an 
evil thing. 

I think I know, he answered. 

Well, what do you think a sophist means ? 

I think, said he, as the name imports, that 
it means a man who is learned in wisdom. 

Yes, said I, but as much may be said for 


painters and architects ; they also may be de 
scribed as men learned in wisdom. But if we 
were asked, what the wisdom is in which 
painters are learned, we should doubtless say, 
In that which relates to the production of 
pictures. And so for the rest. But if we were 
to be further asked, What is the wisdom in 
which a sophist is learned ? what is the pro 
duction that he superintends ? what would be 
our reply ? 

Why, what else should it be, Socrates, but 
I that he superintends the production of an able 
speaker ? 

If so, said I, our answer might possibly be 
true, but certainly not sufficient. For it would 
draw on us the further inquiry, But what is the 
subject on which the sophist makes a man able 
to speak ? The musician makes his pupil able 
to speak on the subject in which it makes him 
learned ; in music, that is ; does he not ? 

He does. 

Well, said I, what is the subject on which 
the sophist makes a man able to speak ? 
obviously on that in which he makes him 
learned, is it not ? 

One would expect so, at any rate. 

What then, I proceeded, is that, in which the 
sophist is both learned himself, and makes his 
pupil learned also ? 

This, Socrates, I confess, I cannot tell you. 
313 Young man, I rejoined, what are you doing? 
are you aware of the danger to which you are 
about to expose your soul ? If you had had 


occasion to entrust your body to any one s 
care, at the risk of its becoming either healthy 
or depraved, frequent would have been your 
deliberations on the propriety of the measure ; 
you would have summoned both friends and 
relatives to a consultation, and taken many 
days to consider the matter ; yet now, when 
your soul is concerned, your soul, which you 
prize far more highly than your body, and 
whereon your all depends for good or ill, 
according as it turns out healthy or depraved ; 
when this, I say, is at stake, you communicate 
neither with your father, nor your brother, nor 
with any of us your friends ; you ask none of 
us whether or no you ought to entrust your 
soul to this stranger who is come to Athens ; 
but having heard of his arrival only last even 
ing, as you tell me, you come here early in the 
morning, not to take thought or counsel on the 
matter, but prepared to spend both your own 
fortune and your friends , as if you had already 
made up your mind that, come what might, 
you must be the pupil of Protagoras ; a man 
whom, as you admit, you are neither acquainted 
with, nor have even so much as spoken to 
in your life, but whom you call a sophist ; 
while what this sophist is, to whom you are 
about to entrust yourself, you are plainly 

Yes, Socrates, said he ; such would appear, 
from what you say, to be the case. 

Hippocrates, I continued, is not a sophist a 
sort of merchant, or retail dealer, in the wares 


upon which the soul subsists ? for myself, I 
esteem him something of the kind. 

And what does the soul subsist upon, So 
crates ? he asked. 

Instruction, of course, I replied ; and let us 
be careful, my dear friend, that the sophist 
does not impose upon us, by praising the 
quality of his wares, just as is done by those 
who traffic in food for the body, by the mer 
chant, that is, and the tradesman. For these 
dealers are ignorant, if I mistake not, of the 
commodities which they supply ; they cannot 
tell which article is good or bad for the body 
though they praise them all alike in the sale 
any more than their customers can, unless they 
happen to be versed in the gymnastic or medi 
cal art. And, exactly in the same way, those 
who hawk about their instructions from city to 
city, selling wholesale and retail to all who bid, 
are in the habit of praising their whole stock 
alike ; yet some of these too, my good friend, 
may very likely be unable to tell us which of 
their wares is good, and which bad for the 
soul, while their customers will be equally 
ignorant, unless here again there chance to 
be among them some skilled in the medicine of 
the soul. If then you happen to be a judge of 
these matters, and can say which is good, and 
which is bad, there is no danger in your buy 
ing instructions from Protagoras, or any other 
person whatever ; but if not, then have a care, 
314 my good Hippocrates, that you do not stake 
and imperil your dearest treasure. For, I 


can assure you, there is a far greater risk in 
the purchase of instruction than in that of food. 
When you buy meat and drink from the trades 
man or merchant, you may carry them away in 
other vessels ; and before admitting them into 
your body, by eating or drinking, you may lay 
them down in your house, and, calling in 
qualified advisers, consult what is fit to be 
eaten or drunk, and what to be rejected ; what, 
moreover, is the proper quantity that may be 
taken, and what the proper time for taking it. 
So that in this purchase the danger is not great. 
But instruction you cannot possibly carry away 
in another vessel ; as soon as you have paid 
down the price, you must of necessity receive 
the instruction in your soul itself; and when 
you have learnt it, go home a worse, or a better 
man. Let us, therefore, take advice on this 
question with our elders, for we are still too 
young to settle so great a matter. Since, how 
ever, we have started the plan, let us go and 
hear our sophist, and afterwards confer with 
others on what we have heard ; for, beside 
Protagoras, we shall find there Hippias of Elis, 
and, I think, also Prodicus of Ceos, and many 
other learned professors. 

This resolution taken, we set out on our 
expedition. When arrived at the porch, we 
stopped to discuss a question which had fallen 
out between us on the road, and which we 
wished to bring to a satisfactory conclusion 
before entering the house. Accordingly we 
stood talking in the porch till we had settled 


the matter. Now the porter, an eunuch, must, 
I imagine, have overheard us ; and I am in 
clined to think that, on account of the multi 
tude of sophist-callers, he feels disgust for all 
who come to the house. At any rate, when 
we had knocked at the door, and he had 
opened it, and caught sight of us, Bah! he 
cried out, more sophists, I declare. My 
master s engaged. At the same time, with 
both his hands, he slammed the door in our 
faces, with all the will in the world. So we 
knocked again; but our friend, without open 
ing, called out, Sirs, have you not heard that 
my master is engaged ? But, good porter, I 
urged, we are neither come to call upon 
Callias, nor are we sophists ; so cheer up. 
It is Protagoras that we want to see, take in 
our names. At length, with the greatest diffi 
culty, we prevailed on the fellow to open us 
the door. 

On entering, we found Protagoras walking 
up and down one of the porticoes. And, in 
the same line with him, there walked on one 
315 side Callias, the son of Hipponicus, and his 
half-brother Paralus, the son of Pericles, and 
Charmides, the son of Glaucon ; on the other 
there was Pericles other son, Xanthippus, and 
Philippides, the son of Philomelus ; and, more 
over, Antimcerus of Mende, who enjoys the 
greatest reputation of all Protagoras s pupils, 
and is taking lessons professionally, with the 
view of becoming a sophist himself. Behind 
these distinguished individuals there followed a 


crowd of listeners, composed principally, as it 
appeared to me, of the foreigners whom Prota 
goras sweeps with him from the several cities 
he passes through, luring them, like an 
Orpheus, with his voice, and they follow at 
the sound, enchanted. There were, however, 
among them some of our own countrymen as 
well. On looking at this attendant band, I 
was particularly charmed to observe the excel 
lent care they took never to get into the way of 
Protagoras. The moment the great master 
and his party turned, deftly and daintily did 
these gentlemen file off to the right and left, 
and, wheeling round, take their places, on each 
occasion, behind him, in the prettiest order. 

Next after him my eyes observed, as Homer 
has it, Hippias of Elis, sitting in the opposite 
portico on a high chair ; and on stools around 
him I remarked Eryximachus the son of Acu- 
menus, Phoedrus of Myrrhine, and Andron the 
son of Androtion, beside a number of foreigners 
from his own town of Elis and other cities. 
And they appeared to be plying him with 
questions on natural science, and especially on 
astronomy, while he, sitting aloft on his throne, 
was dispensing to them their several answers, 
and explaining all their difficulties. 

There too, moreover, I beheld a Tantalus ; 
for Prodicus of Ceos had lately come to Athens. 
Now this professor was established in a small 
room which Hipponicus had been in the habit 
of using as a store closet. On the present 
occasion, however, Callias has been forced, by 


the influx of guests, to empty it of its contents 
and turn it into a spare bedchamber. / Here 
then was Prodicus, still in bed, and wrapped 
up in what appeared to be a great quantity of 
sheepskins and blankets. On sofas near him 
were sitting Pausanias of Ceramis, and close 
by the side of Pausanias a young lad of a 
noble disposition, as far as I could judge, and 
certainly of a most beautiful form. I thought 
I heard his name was Agathon, and I should 
not be surprised if he turns out to be Pau- 
sanias s favourite. Beside this stripling there 
were the two Adimantuses, sons of Cepis and 
Leucolophides, and some others. But what 
they were talking about I was unable to catch 
from the outside, notwithstanding my intense 
anxiety to hear Prodicus, so supremely, nay 
divinely, clever do I account the man ; for the 
316 gruffness of his voice caused a kind of buzzing 
in the room, which rendered all he said indis 
tinct. We had not been long in the house, 
when there came in after us Alcibiades the 
fair, as you call him with my full assent, and 
Critias the son of Callaeschrus. 

After we had spent a few minutes in noticing 
the particulars I have mentioned, we walked up 
to Protagoras, and I said, Protagoras, it is to 
see you that I and my friend Hippocrates here 
have called. 

Would you like, said he, to speak with me 
alone, or before the rest ? 

To us, I replied, it makes no difference in 
the world ; when you have heard our object in 


coming, you can judge for yourself. Well, 
what is your object ? he asked. 

Hippocrates, said I, presenting him, is a 
native of Athens, son of Apollodorus, of a great 
and wealthy house. For himself, he is con 
sidered in point of natural ability a fair match 
for the youth of his age : and he is desirous, I 
believe, of making a figure in the state, a result 
which he expects more readily to attain by 
attaching himself to you. Now then that you 
have heard our errand, consider whether it 
ought to be discussed between ourselves alone, 
or in public. 

You do well, Socrates, he answered, to take 
these precautions in my behalf. When a 
stranger visits powerful cities, and in each of 
them calls upon the flower of the youth to 
abandon the society of their countrymen, both 
related and not related, both old and young, 
and attach themselves solely to him, in the 
hope of becoming better by such intercourse ; 
when he does this, I say, he cannot take too 
many precautions ; for his course is attended 
by no slight jealousy, by ill-will, moreover, and 
actual plots. Now the trade of sophist is, I 
maintain, of ancient date ; but its professors in 
ancient times were so afraid of this odium ever 
attaching to it, that they uniformly covered it 
with an assumed disguise. Some among them 
veiled it under poetry, as Homer, Hesiod, and 
Simonides ; others, again, under mystic rites 
and prophetic inspiration, like Orpheus, Mu- 
sceus, and their followers. I have heard of 


others putting forward even the gymnastic art, 
as a screen; Iccus of Tarentum, for instance, 
and that sophist of the present day, who is in 
ferior to none of his contemporaries, Herodicus 
of Selymbria, and formerly of Megara. Music, 
again, was the cover assumed by your own 
countryman, Agathocles, a very eminent 
sophist, by Pythoclides of Ceos, and a num 
ber of others. Now it was, I repeat, for fear 
of becoming generally odious, that all these 
distinguished sophists shrouded their one trade 
beneath the veil of the several arts I have 
317 mentioned. But I, for my part, differ from 
them all, so far as this concealment is con 
cerned. For I conceive that they were very 
far from attaining the object they desired, inas 
much as their secret was discovered by men of 
authority in their respective states, that is to 
say, by the very men to deceive whom these 
disguises were assumed ; since the vulgar herd 
may be said to perceive nothing at all of them 
selves, but merely to echo the opinions which 
the former promulgate. Now, whenever a man 
attempts to escape, and instead of succeeding 
is caught in the act, he is not only thought a 
great fool for his pains, but necessarily renders 
himself still more obnoxious than before : for 
men consider that such a person adds knavery 
to his other delinquencies. On such grounds, 
then, the course I have pursued has been 
exactly the opposite to this. I have ever 
avowed myself a sophist and a teacher of 
youth ; and I esteem this precaution of mine 


to be more effectual than theirs, avowal, that 
is to say, I esteem safer than denial. Added 
to this, I have devised other precautions, so 
that, thanks be to Heaven, no harm has ever 
come to me from avowing my profession. Yet 
I have now been engaged in it many years, as 
may well be the case, considering the number 
I have lived altogether so many that there is 
not one among you, whose father I am not old 
enough to be. I shall therefore consider it 
far more agreeable, if you -do not object, to 
discuss your errand in the presence of all the 
inmates of the house. On hearing this, I at 
once suspected that he had a mind to parade 
us before Prodicus and Hippias, and make it 
appear that we had come as his ardent ad 
mirers. Accordingly I said, Why don t we 
then summon Prodicus and Hippias to come 
with their followers, and listen to our conversa 

Let us do so by all means, he replied. 

What say you, suggested Callias, to our 
making a regular divan, so that you may talk 
sitting ? His proposal being accepted, we all 
set to work with delight at the idea of listening 
to such clever men, and with our own hands 
seized on the stools and sofas, and ranged 
them in order by the side of Hippias, as the 
stools were already in his neighbourhood. 
Before we had finished, Callias and Alcibiades, 
who had gone to fetch Prodicus, returned with 
him and his coterie, having succeeded in 
getting the professor out of bed. 


As soon as we had all taken our seats, Pro 
tagoras began. Now then, Socrates, said he, 
that these gentlemen have joined our party, you 
had better repeat what you mentioned to me 
a few minutes ago, with regard to this young 

318 I open my account of our errand, said I, in 
the same way as I did before. I present to 
you my friend Hippocrates, who is possessed 
with a desire of becoming your disciple, and 
would be glad, he says, to hear what advan 
tages he may expect to derive from your 
tuition. So much for our part of the busi 
ness. In answer to this, Protagoras said to 
Hippocrates, My young friend, if you are to be 
my disciple, you will find that on the very day 
of your becoming such, you will go home a 
better man than you came ; on the second day 
the result will be similar, and each succeeding 
day will be marked with the same gradual im 

But, Protagoras, I replied, there is nothing 
wonderful in this promise of yours ; it is only 
what may naturally be expected. Since I am 
sure that even you yourself, advanced in years 
and wisdom as you are, could not fail of being 
improved by receiving information on a subject 
with which you might possibly chance to be 
unacquainted. No, this is not the sort of 
answer we want ; but something of the follow 
ing kind. Suppose our friend here were ere 
long to take a new fancy into his head, and 
conceive the desire of attaching himself to the 


young painter, Zeuxippus of Heraclea, who has 
lately come to Athens, and were to make the 
same application to him, that he is now making 
to you, and were to hear from him in reply, 
exactly as he has heard from you, that each 
day of his attendance would be marked by 
fresh improvement and progress. If our 
youth, however, not content with this answer, 
were further to inquire, In what do you mean 
that I shall improve, and wherein shall I make 
progress ? Zeuxippus would say, In painting. 
And so, if on applying to Orthagoras of Thebes, 
and hearing from him the same answer that he 
hears from you, he were to proceed to ask, 
what would be the particular point in which he 
would daily improve by his daily attendance ? 
the flute-player would reply, In playing the flute. 
This then is the kind of answer I wish you to 
give to Hippocrates, and to me who am ques 
tioning you on his behalf. 

If my friend here becomes a pupil of yours, 
Protagoras, he will go home on the first day of 
his attendance a better man than he came, and 
on each succeeding day he will make similar 
progress to what, Protagoras ? In what will 
he improve ? 

Socrates, he answered, your question is a 
fair one, and I delight in answering fair ques 
tions. If Hippocrates comes to me, he will not 
be served as he would be served if he were to 
attach himself to any other sophist. Sophists 
in general misuse their pupils sadly. Just 
escaped as the lads are from their school- 


studies, these teachers drive them back again, 
sorely against their will, into the old routine, 
and give them lessons (while saying this, he 
glanced at Hippias) in arithmetic, astronomy, 
geometry, and music ; whereas, if a youth 
comes to me, he will receive instruction on no 
other subject than that which he is come to 
learn. And what he will learn is this : such 
prudence in domestic concerns as will best 
enable him to regulate his own household ; 
319 such wisdom in public affairs as will besT 
qualify him for becoming a statesman and 

I wonder, said I, whether I follow your 
meaning : I understand you to speak of the 
political art, and that you undertake to make 
men good citizens. 

This is exactly the profession I do make, 
Socrates, he replied. 

Glorious truly then, said I, is the art you 
possess, if so be that you do possess it ; for to 
a man like you I will say nothing else than 
what I really think. Since for my part, Prota 
goras, I always imagined that this art was not 
capable of being taught, but when you say it 
is, I know not how to disbelieve you. My 
reasons, however, for believing that it cannot 
be taught, or communicated from man to man, 
I am bound to declare. I hold, as all Greece 
holds, that the Athenians are a wise people. 
Now, I observe in all our meetings in the 
assembly, that whenever there is occasion to 
transact any public business connected with 


house-building, they invariably send for house- 
builders, to advise them on the matter ; when 
ever connected with shipbuilding, for ship 
builders ; and the same practice is observed 
with regard to all the arts which they consider 
capable of being learnt and taught. But 
should any individual, whom they believe to be 
no member of the trade in question, obtrude 
his advice on the matter, be he ever so beauti 
ful, or wealthy, or high-born, they do not a 
whit the more allow him a hearing on this 
account, but shower on him jeers and hisses, 
till our would-be speaker either gives way of 
himself to this storm of clamour, or is pulled 
down from the bema by the bowmen, and 
turned out of the house by command of the 
prytanes. Such then is the course they pursue 
with all business which they consider belongs 
to a craft. But whenever a matter connected 
with the public administration requires discus 
sion, up starts any member who pleases, and 
proffers them his advice, no matter whether he 
be carpenter, smith, or shoemaker, merchant or 
skipper, rich or poor, high or low. And in 
this case no one thinks, as in the former, of 
objecting to the speaker, that without having 
received instruction from any quarter, without 
having any teacher to show, he yet presumes 
to offer advice ; clearly, because they all believe 
that this knowledge is not capable of being 
taught. Nay, not only is public business con 
ducted on this principle, but in private life we 
see our best and wisest citizens unable to 


impart to others the excellence which them 
selves possess. Take, for example, Pericles, 
the father of these two young men. In all 
that a master could teach, he has educated 
320 them liberally, and well ; but in his own 
wisdom he neither instructs them himself, nor 
sends them anywhere else to be instructed ; 
but, like oxen consecrated to the gods, they are 
left to roam and pasture at will, if haply some 
where or other they may light by good fortune 
on virtue. Do you wish another case ? There 
is Clinias, the younger brother of our friend 
here, Alcibiades. His guardian, this same 
Pericles, for fear, as he said, of his being 
corrupted by Alcibiades, tore him from the 
society of the latter, and placed him in Ari- 
phron s house to be educated. But he had not 
been there six months before Ariphron restored 
him to his guardian, as not being able to make 
anything of him. And so I could cite instance 
upon instance of men, who, good themselves, 
have been unable to render better either their 
own sons or other people s ; and it is, Prota 
goras, from the observation of such instances 
as these that I have been led to the belief, that 
virtue is not a thing that can be taught. Now, 
however, that I hear you maintain the contrary, 
that belief is shaken, and I am inclined to 
think that there must be something in what 
you say ; since I esteem you a man of vast 
experience, of extensive acquirements, and no 
inconsiderable invention. If therefore you 
are able to make it clear by demonstration, 


that the nature of virtue admits of its being 
taught, do not grudge us, I beseech you, your 

No, Socrates, I will not, he replied. But 
say, should you prefer me, as beseems an elder 
when addressing his juniors, to convey my 
proof in the form of a mythical story, or to go 
through it step by step in a serious discussion ? 
Many of the party calling out in reply, that he 
might do whichever he pleased, Well, said 
he, since you leave me the choice, I think it 
pleasanter to tell you a story. 

There was once a time when, though gods 
were, mortal races were not. But when there 
came, by law of fate, a time for these too to be 
created, the gods fashioned them in the bowels 
of the earth, out of a mixture of earth and fire, 
and substances which combine the two. And 
when they were ready to bring them forth to 
the light, they charged Prometheus and Epi- 
metheus with the office of equipping them, and 
dispensing to each of them suitable endow 
ments. Epimetheus, however, entreated his 
brother to leave the distribution to him ; and 
when I have completed my work, do you, says 
he, review it. 

Having obtained his request, he began to 
distribute. To some he assigned strength 
without speed ; others, that were weaker, he 
equipped with speed. Some he furnished with 
weapons ; while for those whom he left weapon 
less, he devised some other endowment to save 
them. Animals, which he clad with puny 


frames, were to find safety in the flight of their 
321 wings, or subterranean retreats ; those which 
he invested with size, were by this very size to 
be preserved. And so throughout the whole of 
the distribution he maintained the same equal 
ising principle ; his object in all these con 
trivances being to prevent any species from 
becoming extinct. Having thus supplied them 
with means of escaping mutual destruction, he 
proceeded to arm them against the seasons, by 
clothing them with thick furs and strong hides, 
proof against winter-frost and summer-heat, and 
fitted also to serve each of them, when seeking 
rest, as his own proper and native bed : and 
under the feet he furnished some with hoofs, 
others with hair and thick and bloodless skins. 
His next care was to provide them with different 
kinds of food : to one class he gave herbs of 
the field ; to another, fruits of trees ; to a third, 
roots ; while a fourth he destined to live by 
making other animals their prey. Such, how 
ever, he allowed to multiply but slowly, while 
their victims he compensated with fecundity, 
thus ensuring preservation to the species. 
Forasmuch though as Epimetheus was not 
altogether wise, he unawares exhausted all the 
endowments at his command on the brute 
creation ; so he still had left on his hands 
without provision the human family, and he 
knew not what to do. 

While thus embarrassed, Prometheus came 
up to review his distribution, and found that, 
while other animals were in all points well 


suited, man was left naked and barefoot, im 
bedded and unarmed. Yet now the fated day 
was close at hand, on which man too was to 
go forth from earth to light. Prometheus 
therefore, being sorely puzzled what means of 
safety to devise, steals in his extremity the 
inventive skill of Hephaestus and Athene, to 
gether with fire ; for without fire it could 
neither be acquired, nor used by any ; and 
presented them to the human race. 

Thus man obtained the arts of life, but the 
art of polity he had not ; for it was kept in the 
house of Zeus, and into the citadel, the dwel 
ling of Zeus, Prometheus was not now allowed 
to enter; moreover, the watchmen of Zeus 
were terrible. But into the joint abode of 
Athene and Hephaestus, where they worked 
together at the craft they loved, he stole 
unnoticed, and purloining the fiery art of 
Hephaestus, and the other proper to Athene, 322 
bestowed them on man ; and hence man de 
rives abundance for life. But Prometheus, for 
his brother s fault, was visited not long after, as 
the story goes, by the penalty of his theft. 

Man being thus made partaker of a divine 
condition was in the first place, by reason of 
his relationship to God, the only animal that 
acknowledged gods, and attempted to erect to 
gods altars and statues. Secondly, by his art 
he soon articulated sounds and words, and 
devised for himself houses, and raiment, and 
shoes, and beds, and food out of the ground. 

Thus furnished, men lived at first scattered 


here and there, but cities there were none. 
So they fell a prey piecemeal to the beasts of 
the field, because wherever they met them 
they were weaker than they, and their mechan 
ical art, though sufficient for their support, was 
found unequal to the war with beasts. For as 
yet they had not the art of polity, which com 
prises the art of war. So they sought to 
assemble together, and save their lives by 
founding cities. But often as they assembled 
they injured one another, for lack of the poli 
tical art ; so that again they dispersed, and 
again were perishing. Zeus therefore, fearing 
for our race that it would be quite destroyed, 
sent Hermes to take to men justice and shame, 
that they might be orderers of cities, and 
links to bring together friendship. Whereupon 
Hermes inquired of Zeus in what manner he 
was to present shame and justice to men. Am 
I to dispense them, he asked, in the same way 
that the arts have been dispensed ? which have 
been dispensed on this wise : One man re 
ceived the art of medicine for the use of many 
not physicians, and so with the other crafts. 
Is it thus that I am to distribute shame and 
justice among men, or bestow them on all 
alike ? On all alike, said Zeus ; let all par 
take, for cities cannot be formed, if only a few 
are to partake of them, as of other arts. Nay 
more, enact a law from me, that whosoever is 
incapable of partaking in shame and injustice, 
be put to death as a pest to a city. 

Thus you see the reason, Socrates, why the 


Athenians and others, when there is a question 
on excellence in carpentering, or any other 
manual art, conceive that few only are qualified 
to advise them ; and why, if any one not of the 
number of the few, presumes to offer his coun 
sel, they refuse him a hearing, as you assert ; 
and refuse it justly, as I maintain. But when 
ever they come to a debate on political virtue, 323 
which ought altogether to depend on justice 
and prudence, they listen with good reason to 
every speaker whatsoever, esteeming it every 
man s duty to partake of this virtue, if he par 
takes of no other, as otherwise no city can 
exist. This, Socrates, is the true reason of 
the fact. That you may not, however, fancy 
yourself imposed upon, but may understand 
that it is really the universal opinion, that all 
men have a share of justice and political virtue 
in general, receive this additional proof. In all 
other kinds of excellence, for instance, if a man 
professes himself skilled in playing the flute, or 
in any other art whatsoever, while in reality he 
is not so, he is pursued, as you observe, with 
either ridicule or indignation, and his relations 
come up and reprimand him as a madman. 
But in the case of justice and political virtue, 
albeit a man is known to be deficient in such 
virtue, yet if he tells the truth of himself before 
many hearers, this confession of the truth, 
which in the former case was considered good 
sense, is here looked upon as madness ; and it 
is said that all men ought to profess to be 
just, whether they are so or not, and that he 

200 Pfi o TA GORAS 

who does not profess it is out of his senses ; it 
being necessary that every single person should 
in some degree partake of justice, if he is to 
live among men. 

So much then to prove that on this parti 
cular virtue they with good reason allow every 
man to offer his advice, because they believe 
that every man has a share in it ; and further, 
that they consider it to be, not of natural or 
spontaneous growth, but that, wherever it 
exists, it is the result of teaching and study, I 
will next endeavour to demonstrate. If you 
take notice of all the evils which men believe 
their neighbours possess by the fault of nature 
or of fortune, you will observe that no one is 
angry with those who are thus afflicted; no 
one takes them to task; no one attempts to 
instruct or correct them with a view to their 
alteration for the better ; pity is the only feel 
ing entertained. Who, for instance, is so un 
reasonable as to visit another with any of 
these modes of treatment for being ugly, or 
small, or sickly ? No one, clearly, because no 
one, I imagine, is ignorant that evils of this 
kind, as well as their opposite advantages, 
accrue to men either by nature or fortune. 
Look, on the other hand, at those merits which 
it is believed may be acquired by application, 
exercise, and instruction ; if a man, instead of 
possessing these merits, possesses the opposite 
vices, here, if I mistake not, is indignation 
excited, punishment inflicted, and reproof ad 
ministered. Now of this kind injustice and 


impiety are individual instances, while the 
entire opposite to political virtue composes 324 
the class. And for this every man is angry 
with his neighbour, every man takes his neigh 
bour to task, clearly because every man believes 
that it is acquired by education and habit. 
Nay, Socrates, if you will but observe the pur 
port of punishment, it will itself teach you that in 
the opinion of the world, at any rate, virtue is 
a thing capable of being acquired. No one 
when punishing a criminal directs his thought 
to the fact, or punishes him for the fact, of his 
having committed the crime, unless he be pur 
suing his victim with the blind vengeance of a 
reasonless brute. No, he that would punish 
with reason, punishes not on account of the 
past offence for what has been done he surely 
cannot undo but for the sake of the future, 
in order that the offender himself, and all who 
have witnessed his punishment, may be pre 
vented from offending hereafter. And if he con 
ceives such a notion as this, he also conceives 
the notion that virtue may be taught ; at any rate 
he punishes with a view of deterring from vice. 
This, therefore, is the opinion entertained by all 
who inflict punishment, either in a private or pub 
lic capacity. Now, punishment and correction 
are inflicted by all the world on those whom 
they believe to be guilty, and by none more 
than by your own citizens, the Athenians ; so 
that, by this reasoning, the Athenians also are 
in the number of those who consider that virtue 
may be acquired and taught. That your 


countrymen then have good reason for listening 
to the advice of a smith or a shoemaker on poli 
tical affairs, and that in their opinion virtue is a 
thing susceptible of being taught and acquired, 
has been proved to you, Socrates, with arguments 
which, for my part, I consider convincing. 

There still remains, however, a difficulty 
which puzzles you. You ask how it is that 
good fathers instruct their children in all know 
ledge that depends upon teachers, and make 
them wise therein, but in the virtue wherein 
they are good themselves they make them no 
better than others. In answering this ques 
tion, Socrates, I shall address you no more in 
fable, but in serious argument. And let us 
view the matter thus. Is there not some one 
thing of which all members of a state must 
partake, if a state it is to be ? for here, if any 
where, shall we find the solution of your diffi 
culty. For if such a thing there be, and if 
this single thing be neither the art of the car 
penter, nor of the brazier, nor of the potter, 
but justice and discretion and holiness, and, in 
325 a word, that which I call compendiously a 
man s virtue ; if this be a thing of which all 
must partake, and with which every lesson 
must be learnt, and every deed done, without 
which no lesson learnt and no deed done ; if 
all who do not partake of it must be instructed 
and corrected, be they men, or women, or 
children, until by such treatment they are im 
proved ; while those who refuse to hearken to 
the voice of correction and instruction are to be 


expelled from their country, or put to death as 
incurable : if all this be true, and in spite of 
this being true, virtuous men have their child 
ren instructed in all other knowledge, but fail 
to have them instructed in this, just think what 
extraordinary people you make of your virtuous 
men. For we have proved that as individuals 
and statesmen they believe virtue to be the fruit 
of education and culture ; and, with this belief 
on their part, is it possible to suppose that they 
instruct their sons in knowledge where death 
is not the punishment of ignorance, but that 
in the knowledge of that, wherein if they fail to 
instruct their children, they entail upon them 
the penalty of death, and of exile, and beside 
death the confiscation of their goods ; and, in 
a word, the utter ruin of their house ; is it 
possible, I say, to suppose that in the know 
ledge of this, that is, in the knowledge of 
virtue, they do not instruct their children and 
bestow thereon all their care ? Surely we 
must believe they do. Yes, Socrates, from 
infancy upwards they instruct and admonish 
them as long as they live. The moment that 
a child understands what is said to him, the 
one point contended for by nurse, and mother, 
and governor, and the father himself, is the 
progress of their charge in virtue ; from every 
thing that is said and done they take occasion 
to tell and explain to him, that such a thing is 
just, and such another unjust, that this conduct 
is honourable, and that disgraceful, that one 
deed is holy, and another impious ; this you 


must do, they say, and that you must not do. 
If the child yield a willing obedience, all is 
well; if not, they treat him like a young tree 
that is twisted and bent, and try to straighten 
him with threats and blows. After this, they 
send him to school, with a strict charge to the 
master to pay far greater heed to the good be 
haviour of the children than to their progress 
in reading and music. And the master does 
make this his principal care, and as soon as 
his boys have learned their letters, and are in 
a condition to understand what is written, as 
before what was spoken, he sets before them on 
their benches the works of good poets to read, 
and compels them to learn them by heart, 
choosing such poems as contain moral admo- 
326 nitions, and many a narrative interwoven with 
praise and panegyric on the worthies of old, in 
order that the boy may admire, and emulate, 
and strive to become such himself. And 
exactly on a similar principle the study of the 
music -master is to produce sobriety of char 
acter, and deter the young from the commission 
of evil ; and further, when he has taught them 
to play, //<? again instructs them in the works of 
other good poets, selecting lyric poems for 
their use, which he sets to his music, and com 
pels the minds of his pupils to be familiarised 
with measure and harmony, to the end that 
their natures may be softened, and that, by 
becoming more sensible to time and tune, they 
may be better qualified to speak and to act. 
For the life of man in all its stages requires 


modulation and harmonising. Nay more, they 
send them to gymnastic schools, in order that 
by an increase of bodily strength they may be 
better able to serve their virtuous minds, and 
not be compelled by physical infirmity to shrink 
from their post in war and other emergencies. 
Such is the course of education adopted by 
those fathers who are best able to follow it, 
that is to say, by the wealthiest citizens ; and 
their sons are the first to go to school, and the 
last to leave it. And as soon as they are 
released from school, the state on its part con 
strains them to learn its laws, and live by them 
as by a model, that they may not follow the 
random bent of their own inclinations. And 
exactly as writing-masters under-rule lines with 
their pen for such pupils as are still awkward 
at writing, before they give them their writing 
lesson, and oblige them to follow in their writing 
the direction of the lines ; so too does the state 
mark out a line of laws, the discoveries of good 
and ancient lawgivers, which it forces its mem 
bers to be guided by, as well in exercising as in 
obeying authority, while it visits with punish 
ment all who transgress the line ; and the 
name given to this punishment, both here and 
in other places, is correction, under the notion 
that justice directs. So great then being the 
attention paid to virtue both by states and 
individuals, do you wonder, Socrates, and 
doubt if virtue is capable of being taught ? 
You ought not to wonder at that, but much 
rather, if it were not capable. 


How does it happen then, that virtuous 
fathers have frequently unworthy sons ? Hear 
the reason ; for neither in this is there any 
thing to wonder at, if it be true, as I previously 
remarked, that virtue is a pursuit wherein no 
327 member of a state, if it is to be a state, must 
be altogether uninitiated. For if what I say 
be true, as most incontestably it is, consider 
the case by selecting in the way of example 
some other pursuit and subject of instruction. 
Suppose, for instance, that it were impossible 
for a state to exist without all its members 
being flute-players in a greater or less degree, 
according to their several capacities ; suppose 
that all both publicly and privately were taught 
to play, and reproached if they played ill, and 
that no one envied another this attainment, 
just as under existing circumstances no one 
either envies a man his justice and his obedi 
ence to law, or affects to conceal his own, as 
he does his other accomplishments for each 
of us, I imagine, finds his own interest in his 
neighbour s justice and virtue, and therefore all 
are eager to tell and teach to all the dictates 
of justice and law. Suppose, I repeat, that in 
the art of playing the flute we were all ready 
to instruct one another with the same zeal and 
freedom from jealousy ; do you imagine, So 
crates, that the sons of superior flute-players 
would be at all more likely to turn out superior 
performers than the sons of inferior players ? 
I think they would not ; but any man s son 
who chanced to be born with a genius for 


flute-playing would rise to distinction, and if 
the genius were wanting, so would be the dis 
tinction ; and often would it happen that a 
skilful player would be followed by an unskilful 
son, and an unskilful father by a skilful son. 
But still I feel sure that all would be competent 
players by the side of those, who did not make \ 
flute -play ing their business or their study. 
This then is the light in which I wish you 
to view our present condition. Select the in 
dividual whom you consider the most deficient 
in justice of all who have been trained in law 
and society, and you will find him not only 
just, but a perfect master in justice, when com 
pared with men who have neither training, nor 
tribunal, nor laws, nor any necessity ever com 
pelling them to cultivate virtue ; but who are in 
fact savages, like the wild men represented on 
the stage last year by the poet Pherecrates at 
the Lensean festival. I am confident that, if 
you were thrown among such men as those, 
like the misanthropical chorus in the play, you 
would be only too happy to fall in with a Eury- 
bates or a Phrynondas, and would mourn with 
tears of regret for the villainy of your worst 
citizens here. But now you are fastidious, 
Socrates, and because all men are teachers of 
virtue to the best of their several abilities, you 
believe that it is taught by none. Again, if / 
you were to search in Athens for a teacher of 
Greek, you would not find a single one ; and 
equally unsuccessful, I imagine, would you be 328 
if you were to look for a master competent to 


instruct the sons of our mechanics in the very 
trade which they have eachlearnt from their father, 
as well as their father and his fellow-craftsmen 
were able to teach it. No, Socrates, if you 
wanted a teacher for such proficients as these, 
it would be no easy matter to discover one ; 
but if for boys quite ignorant of the trade, 
you would find one with no trouble at all. 
And similar is the difficulty with respect to 
virtue and all those other qualities. But if 
there be any among us ever so little more 
capable than others of advancing men on the 
road to virtue, you may be well content. Now 
of this number I conceive that I am one ; and 
I flatter myself that far above all other men 
do I understand the art of making a virtuous 
gentleman, and that my lessons are well worth 
the price I demand, ay and a still larger one, 
so much so that even the pupil himself allows 
it. And therefore the plan I have adopted in 
asking my terms is this. As soon as a pupil 
has finished his course, he pays me, if willing, the 
full amount of my demand ; if not, he goes to 
an altar, and there he makes on oath his own 
estimate of the value of my instructions, and 
pays me accordingly. 

Such are my proofs, Socrates, both in fable 
and serious argument, in favour of the proposi 
tions, that virtue is capable of being taught, 
and that it is such in the opinion of the Athen 
ians, and that there is nothing surprising in 
good fathers having bad sons, or in bad fathers 
having good sons ; since to take from the 


various professions one case out of nnnv th P 
f^ndV 01 ^" 5 he companion? ou 
.here, Paralus and Xanthippus, are 
nothing m comparison with their father Bm 

f Paralus and Xanthippus it is not as yet fair 
Plicate ,h,s ; for their youth allows us to 

After this lengthened and varied display 
Pro agoras ceased to speak. And for a long 


on m in.h > Wt my * sti " fi *d 

Him, in the expectation of his saying some 

" 11 m my EagerneSS < ^ " 

A. hst^he y EagerneSS < 

finishf i f J Perceived that he had really 
finished I w ,th some difficulty recovered my 
think?", , tUmine Hi PPcrates said, How 
mkfu I am to you, son of Apollodorus for 
having induced me to come hither-so h ^h a 

f h V S , 6 , \ aCC Um " have heard what 
have hearf from Protagoras. For heretofo e 
I as of opm.on that there was no method of 
human culture by which the virtuous acquired 
.he, r Vlrtue but now , am sua ^quired 

Only one sllght di ffi cultv remains . 


e you an answer, or to ask any question 



themselves ; but if you start ever so slight an 
inquiry with respect to any remark they have 
made, exactly in the way that a vessel of brass, 
when struck, rings loud, and continues to ring, 
unless you stop it by laying on your finger, so 
do these orators respond to the shortest ques 
tion with an harangue of inordinate length. 
But not so our Protagoras. He is not only 
equal, as the fact proves, to the delivery of 
long and beautiful speeches, but he is also able 
to return a short answer to a short question ; 
and, when questioner in his turn, he can wait 
till he has received his answer gifts these of 
rare attainment. Now therefore, Protagoras, 
as I only want one slight explanation to be en 
tirely satisfied, I trust to you for answering me 
this : You assert that virtue is susceptible of 
being taught, and if there be a man in the 
world on whose word I would believe it, I be 
lieve it on yours. But there was one thing 
that puzzled me, as you were speaking, and on 
this pray satisfy my mind. You said that 
Zeus sent justice and shame as a present to 
men ; and again, in several places in your 
discourse, you spoke of justice, and discretion, 
and holiness, and similar qualities, as making 
all together one thing, which you called virtue. 
This, then, is the point that I wish to be accur 
ately explained. Is virtue one thing, and are 
justice, discretion, holiness, parts of it, or are 
all these but so many names of one and the 
same thing ? This is what I still want to 


Well, Socrates, he said, if this be all, I shall 
have no difficulty in answering you. These 
qualities of which you ask are all parts of one 
thing, of virtue. 

But are they parts, I asked, like the parts 
of a face, like the mouth, nose, ears, and eyes ; 
or, like the parts of gold, do they exactly re 
semble one another and the whole, except in 
being greater or smaller ? 

Like the former, I consider, Socrates. They 
bear the same relation to virtue that the parts 
of a face bear to the entire face. 

How then, said I, are these parts of virtue 
distributed among men ? Do some men have 
one, and some another ; or, if a man has re 
ceived one, must he of necessity have all ? 

Certainly not, Socrates. Many men are 
courageous without being just, many are just 
without being wise. 

Then these too are parts of virtue, said I, 33O 
wisdom and courage. 

Most assuredly they are, said he. Why, 
wisdom is chief of all the parts. 

And every one of these parts is different 
from every other. Is it not so ? I asked. 

It is, he replied. 

And every one of them has a distinct func 
tion, like the parts of a face ? An eye, you 
know, is not like an ear, nor is its function the 
same ; and so of the other parts, there is not 
one like any other, either in function or in any 
thing else. Is it the same then with the parts 
of virtue ? do they all differ from one another, 


at once in themselves and their functions ? Is 
it not clear though, that such must be the case, 
at least, if we are to keep to our comparison ? 

Well, Socrates, it is the case. 

If so, I continued, there are none of the 
other parts of virtue like wisdom, or like jus 
tice, or like courage, or like discretion, or like 

None, he said. 

Come then, said I, let us examine together 
into the character of each of these parts. And, 
first, of justice. Is justice a thing, or not a 
thing ? For my part, I believe it to be a 
thing. But what do you ? 

I believe so, too. 

To proceed. If a man were to say to you 
and me, Protagoras and Socrates, be good 
enough to tell me whether this thing, as you 
have just called it, this justice, is, in itself, just 
or unjust ? I should answer, Just ; but what 
would be your decision ? The same as mine, 
or different ? 

The same, he replied. 

The nature then of justice is to be just, I 
should say, if he were to ask me the question. 
Should you ? 

I should. 

And if he were to proceed to inquire whether 
we believed in the existence of holiness as well, 
we should doubtless assent. 

True, he answered. 

And if he were to ask whether we called 
this a thing also, we should assent again. 



So we should. 

But if he were further to inquire whether we 
considered the nature of this thing to be holy, 
or unholy, I, for my part, should be indignant 
at the question, and should reply, Hush, my 
good sir ; it were hard for anything else to be 
holy, if holiness itself were not holy. And 
you, should not you answer thus ? 
Most certainly I should. 
If however to these questions he were to add 
the following, But what was it, my good friends, 
that you said a little time ago? Did I not 
hear you aright ? I fancied you said that the 
parts of virtue were so disposed among them 
selves, as to bear no resemblance one to another. 
To this I should reply, For the rest you heard 
aright ; but when you thought that I too made 
this remark, your hearing deceived you. No, 331 
this was Protagoras s answer to a question of 
mine. On hearing this, if he were to turn to 
you, and say, Protagoras, does Socrates speak 
the truth ? do you maintain that the different 
parts of virtue are all unlike each other ? was 
this assertion yours ? what would be your 
reply ? 

I should be forced to allow that it was 
said he. 

After this admission, Protagoras, what would 
be our answer, if he were to proceed thus ? It 
appears then, that it is not the nature of holi 
ness to be a just thing, nor of justice to be 
a holy thing ; but, rather, of holiness to be a 
thing that is not just, and of justice to be a 


thing that is not holy ; that is to say, holiness 
is an unjust thing, and justice an unholy thing. 
Well, what is to be our answer ? On my own 
account I should reply, that, as for myself, I 
believed justice to be holy, and holiness just ; 
and on yours, too, I should be glad, if you 
would allow me, to make the same answer ; at 
any rate, to say that justice and holiness, if not 
exactly the same, resembled each other as 
nearly as possible ; and that nothing was so 
like holiness as justice, or like justice as holi 
ness. Determine then, whether you would 
forbid me to make this reply, or whether your 
opinion coincides with mine. 

I certainly do not think, Socrates, that it is 
so unconditionally true, as to demand my un 
qualified assent, that justice is holy, and holiness 
just. There appears to me to be a difference 
between them. But what matters that ? If 
you wish it, I am quite ready to allow that 
holiness is just, and justice holy. 

Pardon me, said I. It is not at all my 
object to examine into an * If you wish it, or an 
If you think so ; but into what you think, and 
what I think : that is to say, I consider that 
our argument will be most successfully investi 
gated by putting ifs altogether out of the 

Well, Socrates, said he, there is no doubt 
that justice and holiness are somewhat alike ; 
for there are no two things in the world that do 
not, in some point of view, resemble one another. 
There are points of resemblance between black 

PK O TA CORAS 2 1 5 

and white, hard and soft, and other qualities 
which are believed to be most diametrically 
opposed to each other. In fact, those very 
parts which we said just now had different 
functions and different natures the parts, that 
is, of the face do, in certain respects, resemble 
one another. So that, in this way, you might 
go on to prove, if you chose, that all things are 
alike. But it is not fair to call things like, 
because they have some point of resemblance ; 
nor unlike, because they have some point of 
dissimilarity, if, in either case, the point be a 
very small one. 

To this I replied with wonder, Do you mean 
to say then, that, in your opinion, the relation 
between justice and holiness is that of the 
faintest resemblance ? 

I don t quite say this, he replied ; but neither, 
on the other hand, am I inclined to take your 332 
view of the matter. 

Well, said I, since this question seems to put 
you out of humour, let us allow it to pass ; and 
from the other things you said select the follow 
ing for consideration. 

Is there a thing you call folly ? 
There is. 

And is not the direct contrary of this thing 
wisdom ? 

I think so. 

When men act correctly and beneficially, are 
they discreet, think you, in so acting ; or would 
they be, if they were to act in the opposite 
manner ? 


Discreet in so acting. 

Are they not discreet by virtue of discretion ? 

Of course they are. 

And do not those, who do not act correctly, 
act foolishly, and show themselves not discreet 
in so acting ? 

He assented. 

It appears then that acting foolishly is the 
contrary to acting discreetly. 

It does, he said. 

Is it not true, I asked, that what is done 
foolishly is done through folly, and what is done 
discreetly, through discretion ? 

To this he agreed. 

And that if a thing be done through strength, 
it is done strongly ; if through weakness, 
weakly ? 

Yes, he answered. 

And if with quickness, quickly ; and if with 
slowness, slowly ? 


And, in short, that if anything is done in 
such and such wise, it is done by virtue of the 
corresponding quality ; and if contrariwise, by 
the contrary quality ? 


To proceed, said I, Is there such a thing as 
beauty ? 

There is. 

And has it any contrary except deformity ? 


Again, is there such a thing as good ? 



Has it any contrary except evil ? 

Once more, is there such a thing as high in 
sound ? 

There is, he said. 

And is there any contrary to it except low ? 

Not any. 

Has every single thing then only one con 
trary, and not many ? 

Only one, I admit. 

Come then, said I, let us reckon up our 
admissions. We have admitted that each 
thing has one contrary, and no more, have we 

We have. 

And that whatever is done contrariwise, is 
done by virtue of contraries ? 


And that whatever is done foolishly, is done 
contrariwise to that which is done discreetly ? 


And that what is done discreetly, is done 
through discretion ; what foolishly, through 


Well, if they be done contrariwise, they must 
be done through contraries, must they not ? 

They must. 

And the one is done through discretion, the 
other through folly, is it not ? 

Just so. 

Contrariwise ? 

Of course. 


Through contraries then ? 


It follows then that folly is contrary to dis 
cretion ? 


Do you remember though our agreeing 
before that folly was contrary to wisdom ? 

I do. 

And that one thing had only one contrary ? 


Well then, said I, which of our two assertions 
333 are we to retract, Protagoras ? the one which 
maintains that one thing has only one contrary, 
or that, in which it was stated that wisdom and 
discretion were distinct, both being parts of 
virtue, and not only distinct but unlike, both in 
nature and function, just as the parts of the 
face are unlike ? Which of the two, I repeat, 
are we to retract ? for when set side by side 
these two statements do not present a very 
musical appearance, as they neither accord nor 
harmonise with one another. For how can 
they possibly accord, if on the one hand it is 
necessary that one thing have only one contrary 
and no more, and on the other it appears that 
folly, which is one thing, has wisdom for a con 
trary and likewise discretion ? I state the case 
correctly, do I not, Protagoras ? 

He confessed that I did, though sorely against 
his will. 

Might it not be then, said I, that wisdom 
and discretion are one and the same thing ? 
Just as before we found that justice and holi- 



ness were pretty nearly the same. But come 
now, Protagoras, I added, let us not be faint 
hearted, but examine the rest. If a man com 
mits injustice, does he appear to you to be 
discreet in committing it ? 

I, for my part, Socrates, should be ashamed 
to avow this ; there are many though who do. 

Shall I maintain then my argument with 
them or with you ? I asked. 

If you like, said he, address yourself to this 
statement first, the statement of the many. 

Well, it makes no difference to me, I said, 
if you will only answer whether this be your own 
opinion or not. For it is the statement itself 
that I am bent on sifting, though it may 
possibly happen that we are at the same time 
sifted ourselves I in asking, and you in 

With this proposal Protagoras at first co 
quetted. The subject is so awkward, he 
pleaded. At last, however, he agreed to answer. 

Come then, said I, answer me from the be 
ginning. Do people appear to you to be dis 
creet when committing injustice ? 

Be it so, he replied. 

By their being discreet, do you mean that 
they are well advised ? 

I do. 

And by their being well advised, that they 
take good counsel in committing injustice ? 


Is this the case if they fare well in commit 
ting it, or if they fare ill ? 


If they fare well. 

Do you say then that there are certain good 
things ? 

I do. 

Are those things good which are advan 
tageous to mankind ? 

Yes, and there are things, I can tell you, 
that I call good, though they be not advan 
tageous to mankind. And by this time Prota 
goras seemed to be fairly exasperated and 
sorely fretted, and to be stedfastly set against 
answering any more. So, seeing him in this 
state, I was cautious, and asked him softly, 
334 Will you tell me, Protagoras, whether you 
speak of things which are advantageous to no 
man, or of things which in no respect whatever 
are advantageous ? Is it the latter sort that 
you call good ? 

By no means, he answered. I know of 
many things which are disadvantageous to 
men, meats, and drinks, and drugs, and a 
thousand other things, and of things too which 
are advantageous. There are things also 
which to men are neither the one nor the 
other, though they are to horses, or to oxen, 
or to dogs ; while there are other things 
again which are neither good nor bad for any 
animal, but only for trees. And here again 
there is a distinction ; some things are good 
for the roots, but bad for the branches. Dung, 
for instance, is a capital thing for the roots of 
all plants when laid at the roots, but if you 
choose to lay it on the branches and young 


shoots, you destroy the tree. Then again 
there is oil, which is very bad for all plants, 
and most destructive to the hair of every 
animal but man, while to man it is of service 
not only for his hair, but also for the rest of his 
body. Nay, so varied and multifarious a thing 
is good, that even this very thing of which we 
are speaking is good for external application, 
but the worst thing in the world to be taken 
internally. And for this reason medical men 
make a point of forbidding their patients the 
use of oil, save only of the smallest possible 
quantity in what they are going to eat, of just 
enough, in fact, to drown the disagreeableness 
in their viands and seasonings which impresses 
itself on their organs of smell. 

This harangue was received by the party 
present with clamorous approval. For myself, 
I said, Protagoras, it is my misfortune to be a 
forgetful sort of person, and if a man makes me 
a long speech, I forget what it is all about. 
Just then as, if I had chanced to be short of 
hearing, you would have considered it neces 
sary, if intending to converse with me, to speak 
louder than you do to other people ; so now, 
since I happen to be short of memory, you 
must curtail me your answers, and make them 
briefer, if you mean me to keep up with you. 

In what sense do you bid me make them 
briefer? he asked. Are they to be briefer than 
is proper ? 

Oh dear no, I replied. 

Are they to be the proper length ? 


Precisely, I said. 

Pray then must I answer you at the length 
which I consider proper, or which you consider 
proper ? 

Protagoras, I answered, I have certainly 
heard that you both possess yourself the gift, 
and can teach it to others, of speaking, if you 
choose, on any given subject at such a length, 
that your speech never comes to an end, and 
then again on the same subject so concisely 
that no one expresses himself in fewer words. 
If therefore you intend to converse with me, I 
335 must request you to adopt your latter style, 
your brevity. 

Socrates, he answered, I in my time have 
entered the lists of argument with many men, 
and had I been in the habit of doing as you 
recommend, of talking, that is, as my anta 
gonist bade me talk, I should be still a mere 
nobody, and the name of Protagoras would 
never have been heard in Greece. 

Then I, knowing that he had not pleased 
himself with his former answers, and that he 
would not consent if he could help it to go on 
answering, and feeling in consequence that it 
was no longer my business to be present at the 
meeting, addressed him thus : I can assure 
you, Protagoras, that I for my part am not 
desirous of carrying on our conversation in a 
way that you dislike, but as soon as you like 
to talk in such a manner that I can keep pace 
with you, I shall then be happy to converse. 
For you, as fame says, and you say yourself, 


are capable of conducting a discourse in a style 
both of brevity and prolixity for you are a 
clever man ; but I have not the gift for these 
long speeches, albeit I should have liked well 
to possess it. It was your place therefore, as 
master of both styles, to have given me the 
choice, that so we might have managed a con 
versation. But now since you refuse to do so, 
and I have an engagement, and could not 
wait while you launched out into long ora 
tions being required elsewhere I will take 
myself off; otherwise I might possibly have 
heard even long speeches from you not un 

With these words I rose to depart. And as 
I was rising, Callias seized my hand with his 
right, and with his left laid hold of my cloak, 
saying, We won t let you go, Socrates ; for if 
you leave us, we shall find our conversation no 
longer the same thing. I beg, therefore, that 
you will remain with us ; for I know nothing 
that I would more gladly hear than a discussion 
between you and Protagoras. So pray oblige 
us all. To this I replied, having already risen 
to leave the house, Son of Hipponicus, charmed 
as I always am with your philosophic spirit, I 
now love and admire it more than ever. So 
that it would give me great pleasure to comply 
with your request, if it were but feasible. But 
now it s just as if you were to ask me to keep 
up with a runner in his prime, like Crison of 
Himera ; or to compete in speed with one of 
our long-distance runners or couriers. Were 


336 you to ask me to do this, I should reply, You 
cannot be so anxious for me, as I am for 
myself, to keep up with such runners as these ; 
but as I cannot, I do not try. No, if you want 
to see me and Crison running together, you 
must ask him to come down to my level ; for 
he can manage a slow pace, though I cannot a 
fast. And so in the present matter, if you are 
desirous of hearing Protagoras and me, you 
must request him to answer, as he did at first, 
briefly, and to the question. Otherwise, what 
is to be the plan of our conversation ? for my 
part, I always thought there was a distinction 
between conversing and haranguing. 

But you see, Socrates, said he, Protagoras s 
proposal is only just ; he demands for himself 
permission to converse as he pleases, and leaves 
the same liberty to you. 

That s not fair, Callias, broke in Alcibiades. 
My friend Socrates here confesses that he has 
no notion of making long speeches, and yields 
the palm therein to Protagoras ; but, in the 
power of conversing, and knowing how to give 
and answer a question, I should be surprised if 
he finds his master anywhere. If therefore, 
Protagoras, on his side, admits that he is a 
worse hand than Socrates at conversing, 
Socrates is content ; but if he professes to 
be his match, let him maintain the conversa 
tion with question and answer, and not launch 
out into a long harangue, whenever a question 
is proposed, for the purpose of eluding his 
opponent s arguments ; and, instead of render- 


!u?h a aTe P n le rr r> Pr tracti "S his speech to 
a length, that most of the hearers forget 
uhat the question was about; though as for 
Socrates himself, I ll be bound that he Jll no! 
forget, for all his joking and pretending to have 

of u E s ou" em ry> l theref ie (as e ^y one 
that Socrates s proposal is ^"Srer T Ae 

errh, W3S Critias if - 

.ht,vho spok e. Prodicu, and Hippias, 
e said, Calhas appears to me to be very much 

u u I , f Pr tag0raS ; and Alcibiades, a 

take 5 ? f 6men u Partisan whatever de he 

t is our business, however, to side 

ne.ther ,v,th Socrates nor 


a ial tv h f r l gard both sides * im- 
partial.ty, but not with equality. For I con 

"" "" 

. con 

f f renCe T both - shou,"" 
ean " S ; but not reward both 
two wh eq meed: bUt the clevercr f the 

Us T" r a ; r> and the CSS dever " HI. 
therefore, m my turn, Protagoras 

cessi r:Ue y eqUest f > ou b h o make con- 
debate if ^ m .," siderin g the question, to 
debate, if you will, but not to wrangle for 

ship bu, T WUh friendS> JU5t Ut f 
h P, but those onl) . w ,. ang , e 


variance and feud with one another. And 
thus your conversation will be best for us 
all. For, on the one hand, you, the speakers, 
will by this means be most likely to obtain 
from us, the hearers, approbation, and not 
praise for approbation is felt in the mind of 
the listener, and there is no deception in it ; 
but praises are often bestowed by those who 
falsify with their lips the belief of their hearts : 
and we, on the other hand, the hearers, 
shall thus be most likely to feel delight, not 
pleasure for a man feels delight in learning, 
and in partaking of wisdom in his mind ; but 
pleasure in eating, and experiencing any other 
agreeable sensation merely in the body. 

Thus spake Prodicus, and was very generally 
applauded ; and after Prodicus, Hippias the 
learned took up the word. My friends who 
are here present, he began, I regard you all as 
of one kin and family and country by nature, 
though not by law : for like is akin to like by 
nature ; but law, which lords it over men, does 
frequently violence to nature. It were a shame 
then in us to know the nature of things, to be 
the wisest men of Greece, and in this very 
character to have now met together in that 
city of Greece which is the home and altar of 
Grecian wisdom, and in that city s greatest 
and wealthiest house, and yet to exhibit no re 
sult worthy of this our rank, but, like the low 
est of mankind, to quarrel with one another. 
It is at once therefore my entreaty and my ad 
vice to you, Protagoras and Socrates, that you 


will allow us as arbiters to mediate between 
i and do not you, Socrates, insist upon 
this your stnct method of talking, which admits 
only of the extremes! brevity, if such a method 
s disagreeable to Protagoras, but allow your 
self more hberty, and give the rein to your 
words , order that they may appear before 
us W , h greater majesty and grace; and for 
you, Protagoras, do not stretch every rope 
spread every sail, and, losing sight of land, run 
efore the wind into your ocean of words but 
see both of you whether you cannot cut ou 
some middle course between you. Such then 
the plan you should adopt, and, if you take 
my advice, you will elect an umpire, and a 
chairman and a president, who will take care 
hat neither of you transgress on either side 
the bounds of moderation. 

This proposal pleased the party, and, all 

PProving it, Callias repeated that he would 

not let me go, and I was requested to name a 

president To which I replied, that it tould 

be unworthy of us to select an umpire for our 

c c ho versat r H " urged the b ^ f - 

.ho ce is found to be our inferior, it cannot be 
I for such a person to preside over his betters 
nor can ,t be well if he turn out to be an equa, 
for being Imnself no better than we are, his acts 
" be no better either; so that our elec ion 
will prove to have been superfluous. lu.t 
will appoint you say, ., superior to the post 
To tell y ou the truth, I do not believe that it is in 
your power to elect a wiser man than Protlgo a " 


but if you appoint one who is not superior, 
though you maintain he is, Protagoras is still 
exposed to the indignity of having a president 
.set over him like a common man. For myself, 
I say nothing it makes no difference to me. 
But I will tell you what I will do to gratify 
your desire for the continuance of our meeting 
and conversation. If Protagoras does not like 
answering, let him take the questioning part, 
and I will answer, and in doing so will en 
deavour to show the sort of answers that, in 
my opinion, ought to be given. And as soon 
as I have answered all the questions he may 
choose to propose, let him in turn answer mine 
in a similar manner. And should he still 
evince an unwillingness to keep to the question 
in his answers, I will then join with you all in 
entreating him, as you are now entreating me, 
not to destroy our party. And so there will 
be no need for a single president to be 
appointed ; you will all discharge the office 
jointly. This plan of mine being universally 
sanctioned, Protagoras was compelled, though 
with a very bad grace, to agree to begin by ask 
ing questions ; and when he had asked enough, 
to give brief answers in his turn to any question 
of mine. Hecommenced then pretty nearly thus: 
In my opinion, Socrates, one of the most 
important elements in a gentleman s education 
is a critical knowledge of poetry, and by this I 
understand the capacity of distinguishing be- 
339 tween such passages in the poets as are cor 
rectly and incorrectly composed, and the power 


of discussing them scientifically, and giving 
reasons when questioned about them. Ac 
cordingly, the question which I now have to 
propose, though it will relate to the subject 
which you and I are at present discussing 
that is to say, to virtue, shall be transferred to 
the region of poetry. This shall be the only 
difference. If I remember right, Simonides 
says to Scopas, son of Creon the Thessalian, 
No doubt to become a good man truly is hard, 
a man in hand and foot and heart four square 
wrought to a faultless work. Do you know the 
ode, or shall I give it you entire ? 

Not the slightest occasion, thank you, I re 
plied. I not only know the piece, but have 
studied it with considerable attention. 

I am glad to hear it, he returned. Pray 
then do you consider it a beautiful and correct 
composition ? 

Certainly I do, very beautiful and correct. 
And do you think it beautiful if the poet 
contradicts himself ? 
Certainly not, said I. 
Look at it closer then, said he. 
You are very good, I answered ; but I have 
looked at it close enough. 

Are you aware then, he continued, that in 
the course of the poem he proceeds, if I mis 
take not, to say, 111 do I accord with that word 
of Pittacus, though it fell from the lips of a 
sage, Tis hard to be good. You observe, 
that it is the same person who makes both this 
remark and the former one 


I do, I answered. 

And do you think them consistent with each 
other ? 

I must confess I do, I replied. At the same 
time, though, I was sorely frightened, lest there 
should be something in what he said. How 
ever I continued, But perhaps you don t. 

Why how, said he, can I possibly think a 
writer consistent with himself who makes both 
these assertions ? who in the first place pre 
mises in his own person, that it is hard truly to 
become a good man, and yet, before he has 
advanced any distance in his poem, is so 
oblivious as to find fault with Pittacus for say 
ing, as he had said himself, that it is hard to 
be good, and declares that he cannot admit 
such an assertion, though it is exactly the same 
as his own. Surely it is evident that in finding 
fault with a man, who says only what he has 
said himself, he finds fault with himself as well ; 
so that in the first passage or the second he is 
clearly wrong. 

These remarks drew from many of the 
hearers clapping and applause. For myself, 
at first, just as if a blow had been dealt me by 
a skilful boxer, I was blinded and made giddy 
at once by the speech of my antagonist, and 
the plaudits of his supporters. At last, with a 
view (to confess to you the truth) of gaining 
time to consider the sense of the poet, I turned 
to Prodicus, and calling out to him, said ; 
340 Prodicus, sure Simonides is a countryman of 
yours. You are bound to come to his aid. 



And in thus inviting your assistance, I can 
fancy myself using the words of Scamander to 
Simois, when beset by Achilles ; for according 
to Homer he summons him thus : 

Come, brother, hasten ; let us both unite 
To quell a mortal s too presumptuous might. 

And so I now call upon you to join me in 
saving our friend Simonides from being de 
molished by Protagoras. And I can assure 
you, the defence requires all that exquisite art 
of yours, whereby you prove that to wish and 
to desire are not the same, and which supplied 
you with those numerous and delicate distinc 
tions which you just now established. And 
now consider whether your opinion agrees with 
mine. Mine is, that Simonides does not con 
tradict himself in this matter; but, before I 
support it, I wish you to publish yours. 

Do you conceive that becoming and being 
are identical or different ? 

Different, to be sure, said Prodicus. 

And did not Simonides in the first passage 
declare his own opinion, that to become a good 
man truly is hard ? 

He did, was the reply. 

And afterwards he condemns Pittacus, not, 
as Protagoras supposes, for making the same 
assertion that he had made himself, but for a 
different one. For Pittacus does not make, 
like Simonides, the difficulty to consist in 
becoming good, but in being good. And let 
me tell you, Protagoras, on the authority of 


Prodicus, that being and becoming are not the 
same. And if being is not the same with 
becoming, Simonides does not contradict him 
self. And I should not wonder if Prodicus 
and many others of the party were to bring 
forward Hesiod to prove, that no doubt to 
become good is hard ; for in front of virtue, he 
says, the gods have placed sweat but when 
you are come to the top, for all its being so 
hard, it is easy to possess. 

As soon as I had finished, Prodicus compli 
mented me, but Protagoras rejoined : 

Your amendment, Socrates, involves a greater 
error than what you would amend. 

If so, I replied, my work has been unfeatly 
done, and I am a sorry sort of physician ; in 
attempting to cure I augment the disease. 

Well it is so, Socrates, he said. 

How do you mean ? I asked. 

Why, said he, it would argue great folly in 
the poet, if he really maintained that virtue was 
so common a thing to possess, when in the uni 
versal opinion of mankind it -is the hardest 
thing of all. 

How very luckily it happens, said I, that 
Prodicus is present at our conversation. For 
you must know, Protagoras, I apprehend that 
341 the art of Prodicus was in old time of a god 
like sort, and commenced either with Simon- 
ides, or at some still more ancient date. But 
you, though acquainted with a great many 
things, are apparently not acquainted with this ; 
whereas I on the contrary am, thanks to the 



teaching of Prodicus. And so in the present 
instance you appear to me not to be aware that 
this very word hard was possibly not under 
stood by Simonides in the sense in which you 
understand it, but that he was like our friend 
here, who is constantly taking me to task on 
the meaning of the word Seivos (terrible, also 
sharp, clever). For whenever, in lauding you 
or any other distinguished person, I say of the 
object of my panegyric, that he is a terrible 
clever man, Prodicus asks me whether I am 
not ashamed of myself, for calling good things 
terrible ? Whatever is terrible, says he, is 
evil ; at any rate, no one ever thinks of talking 
of terrible wealth, or terrible peace, or terrible 
good health ; but men do talk of terrible sick 
ness, and terrible war, and terrible poverty ; 
thereby implying, that whatever is terrible is 
evil. And so perhaps too the Ceans, with 
Simonides at their head, conceive what is hard 
to be evil, or give it some other signification 
with which you are not acquainted. But what 
says Prodicus to the question ? for he is the 
person to apply to about Simonides s language. 
What did Simonides mean, Prodicus, by the 
word hard ? 

Evil, said he. 

This then, I suppose, is the reason why he 
finds fault with Pittacus for saying, Tis hard 
to be good, just as if he had heard him say, 
that it was evil to be good. 

Why what else, Socrates, do you suppose 
that Simonides does mean ? This of course 


and he makes it a reproach to Pittacus that he 
did not know how to distinguish rightly the 
meaning of words, as being a Lesbian, and 
reared in a barbarous dialect. 

You hear, Protagoras, what Prodicus says. 
Have you any answer to make ? 

You are altogether wrong, Prodicus, he 
answered. I am confident that Simonides 
meant by hard, just as we all do, not what is 
evil, but that which, instead of being easy, is 
done with a great deal of trouble. 

Well, to tell you the truth, Protagoras, I 
said, I agree with you. I believe Simonides 
did mean this, and what is more, Prodicus 
knows he did ; only he is bantering you, and 
thinks to try whether you are able to back your 
own assertions. Since a very strong proof, 
that, at any rate, Simonides did not understand 
hard to be evil, is afforded by his very next 
remark. For he says, that God alone can 
possess this boon ; and I am sure that, if he 
had meant to say that it was evil to be good, 
he could not have at once added, that none but 
God can possess good, and have assigned this 
as a special attribute to the deity. Were this 
the case, Prodicus would call his countryman 
an impious profligate, and no true son of Ceos. 
But what appears to me to be in this poem the 
intention of Simonides throughout, I am willing 
342 to tell you, if you would like, Protagoras, to 
have a sample of my capacity for the criticism 
of poetry that you talk about. To this pro 
posal Protagoras answered, Exactly as you 



please, Socrates ; but Prodicus, Hippias, and 
the rest, pressed me strongly to begin. 

Well then, said I, I will endeavour tho 
roughly to explain to you the view which I, for 
my part, take of the poem. 

In no countries of Greece is philosophy of 
higher antiquity, or more generally prevalent, 
than in Crete and Lacedasmon, and nowhere in 
the world are sophists more numerous than 
there. But the inhabitants of these countries 
deny the fact, and, like those sophists of whom 
Protagoras told us, affect an unlearned exterior, 
in order that their superiority in Greece may 
not be discovered to consist in wisdom, but be 
thought to depend upon their valour in war, as 
they imagine that, if the secret of their ascend 
ency were known, it would at once be uni 
versally practised. As it is, however, they 
have so skilfully concealed it, that they have 
taken in all the would-be Spartans in other 
states ; and, accordingly, you may see these 
gentlemen getting their ears battered in their 
ardent emulation, encircling their arms with 
the straps of the cestus, toiling in the palaestra, 
and wearing brief cloaks, under the impression, 
doubtless, that these are the practices to which 
the Spartans owe their supremacy in Greece. 
But the Lacedaemonians, wishing to enjoy the 
society of their native sophists without re 
straint, and getting wearied of having to meet 
them in secret, made a clearance by alien-acts 
of these foreign imitators, and all other strangers 
in their country, and thenceforward lived in in- 


tercourse with their sophists, without foreigners 
being aware of the fact. And, further, they 
allow none of their own youth to visit other 
cities, for fear of their there unlearning the 
lessons they have learnt at home a practice 
which is observed by the Cretans as well. 
Nay, not only are there men in these countries 
who pique themselves on their erudition, but 
women also share their zeal. Now, that my 
statement is correct, and that the Lacedae 
monians are admirably trained in philosophy 
and the art of words, may be discovered from 
the following fact. If you converse with the 
most ordinary Spartan^ you find him for a 
long while in the conversation appearing an 
ordinary sort of person ; but just wait for an 
opportunity to present itself, and he will shoot 
at you, like a skilful archer, a notable saying 
of terse and pointed brevity, so that you, his 
antagonist, will show no better than a child by 
his side. And it was observing this very fact 
which led certain men, in times both past and 
present, to believe that the Spartan idiosyncrasy 
consisted rather in a devotion to wisdom than 
gymnastics, as they were aware that the ca 
pacity for uttering pithy sentences of this sort 
implied in its possessor a finished education. 
343 Of this number were Thales of Miletus, 
Pittacus of Mytilene, Bias the Prienian, Solon 
among ourselves, Cleobulus of Lindus, Myson 
of Chene, and the Lacedaemonian Chilon, who 
was reckoned to make up the seven. All these 
sages were admirers and lovers and disciples of 



the Spartan system, and easily may you dis 
cover their wisdom to have been after the 
Spartan model, by the brief and memorable 
sayings that were uttered by each. Nay 
more, when they met together to dedicate the 
choice offering- of their wisdom to Apollo, in his 
temple at Delphi, they inscribed thereon, in 
their joint capacity, those famous sayings, 
which are, you know, on everybody s lips, 
Know thyself, and, Nothing in extremes. 

What is my object, you will ask, in saying 
this ? It is to show, that among the ancients 
philosophy was couched in a style of Laconic 
pith and brevity. A particular instance of 
which is afforded by this Very saying of 
Pittacus, < Tis hard to be good ; which, being 
received with applause by the learned, was 
passed in private circles from mouth to mouth. 
Simonides then, being a man ambitious of 
philosophic distinction, felt sure that if he were 
to succeed in overturning this famous dictum, 
he would, like a novice who had defeated a 
champion wrestler, establish himself a reputa 
tion among the men of his day. It was in 
opposition then to this current saying, and 
with this ambitious view in thus seeking to 
suppress it, that he composed the entire ode, 
according to my view of the matter. 

Let us now then all unite in examining the 
piece, to see whether my view be a correct one. 
To begin, the very commencement would 
appear to be insane, if the author wished 
simply to state the fact that it was hard to be 


good ; for he inserts the words * no doubt, 
which seem to be inserted with no object in 
the world, unless we conceive him engaged in 
a sort of quarrel with the saying of Pittacus ; 
and that, when Pittacus asserts that it is hard 
to be good, Simonides contradicts him and 
says, It is not so, but to become a good man 
is hard, Pittacus, in very truth. Mind, he 
does not say, truly good ; it is not to good 
that he applies the word truly/ as though he 
thought that some things were truly good, and 
others good indeed, but not good truly. No, 
this would be silly, and not like Simonides. 
But we must make a transposition of the word 
truly, and presuppose that the two remarks 
were made in something like the following 
manner. Pittacus enunciates thus, Mortals, it 
344 is hard to be good ; and Simonides replies, 
You are wrong, Pittacus ; be is not the word, 
but no doubt to become a good man, in hand 
and word and thought complete, wrought to a 
faultless work, is hard in very truth. Thus 
you see we find a reason for inserting no 
doubt, and the word truly seems to be 
correctly placed at the end of the sentence. 
And that this is here the sense of the poet, is 
attested by all the remainder of the poem. For 
were I to review each passage in it separately, 
I could abundantly prove it to be a perfect 
composition ; for it is all very charming and 
elaborate. As, however, it would be too long 
a matter to analyse it thus, I will content 
myself with making it clear by a general sketch 



that the scope of the entire poem is nothing 
more or less, from beginning to end, than a 
refutation of Pittacus s dictum. 

For after a brief interval the poet proceeds 
to assert, just as he would do if maintaining an 
argument, that though no doubt to become a 
good man is truly hard, yet for a certain time 
at least it is possible ; but when become so, to 
remain in this condition, and be, as you say, 
Pittacus, a good man, is altogether impossible, 
and more than human. God alone may possess 
this boon ; But for man, he cannot possibly be 
other than evil, whom helpless misfortune 
prostrates. Who is it then that helpless mis 
fortune prostrates in the command of a ship ? 
Clearly not the landsman ; for the landsman is 
always prostrate. Just then, as you cannot 
throw down a man who is on the ground, but 
he must be on his legs before you can so throw 
him as to lay him on the ground ; exactly in 
the same way a man must be possessed of 
help and resource before he can be prostrated 
by helpless misfortune, while the man who is 
ever without help can never possibly be pro 
strated. A violent storm may overtake the 
pilot, and make him helpless ; a severe season 
may surprise the farmer, and make him help 
less ; and so may the physician be made help 
less by an analogous professional calamity. 
For the good man is capable of becoming evil, 
as is attested by another poet, who says, 

The good are sometimes evil, sometimes good ; 
but the evil man cannot possibly become, but 


must of necessity ever be, evil. Thus it 
appears then, that whenever a helpful, a wise, 
and a virtuous man is prostrated by helpless 
misfortune, he cannot possibly be other than 
evil. But, you say, Pittacus, it is hard to be 
good ; no, the truth is, that to become good no 
doubt is hard, yet possible ; but to be good is 
impossible quite. For, as the poet continues, 
Every man is good by faring well, and evil by 
faring ill. What then is faring well with 
regard to letters ? and what makes a man 
345 good in letters ? Clearly the learning of 
letters. And what kind of faring well makes 
a good physician ? Clearly the learning of 
the treatment of the sick. And evil, he says, 
by faring ill. 7 Who then is capable of becoming 
an evil physician ? Clearly the man who starts 
with being in the first instance a physician, and 
in the second a good physician. For he can 
also become a bad physician. But we who 
are unprofessional cannot possibly become, by 
faring ill, either physicians, or carpenters, or 
anything of the kind ; and whosoever cannot 
become a physician by faring ill, obviously 
cannot become an evil physician either. Thus 
you see it is only the good man that can ever 
become evil, whether he become so by decay, 
or pain, or disease, or any other casualty for 
this alone is evil faring, to lose one s know 
ledge but the evil man can never become 
evil, for he is alway evil ; if he would fain 
become evil, he must first become good. So 
that this part of the poem also tends to prove 

rRO TA CORAS 24 1 

that it is not possible to be a good man in the 
sense of continuing good, but to become good 
is possible, just as it is to become evil. And 
they, adds the poet, are best for the longest 
time whom the gods love. 

And if it be plain that these passages are 
directed against Pittacus, the aim of the poet 
in the following is still more clearly marked. 
For thus he proceeds : < Wherefore never will 
in quest of that which cannot be, throw 
away a part of life on empty bootless hope ; 
in quest, I say, of an all-blameless man among 
us, who feed on the fruits of the wide-bosomed 
earth. When I find one, I will let you know. 
So vehemently and uniformly throughout the 
poem does he persist in attacking that expres 
sion of Pittacus. But all I praise and love 
willingly who do naught vile with necessity ^ c 
not even gods contend. And this again is 
directed to the same point. For Simonides 
was not so ill-informed as to express his 
admiration of those who committed no evil 
willingly, as though he imagined there were 
any in the world who did commit evil wil 
lingly. I had almost said, that no wise man 
ever entertained the opinion, that any mortal 
errs willingly, or commits base and wicked 
actions willingly. On the contrary, wise men 
well know that all who do base and evil deeds, 
do them involuntarily. And so Simonides, 
as a wise man, does not profess himself an 
admirer of those who do not commit evil 
willingly ; but he predicates the willingness of 


himself. For he conceived it to be frequently 
the duty of a good and noble man to force 
himself to become the friend and admirer of 
346 others for instance, when a man is unfortu 
nate enough to have an unworthy father, or 
mother, or country, or any similar tie. Now 
wicked men, when subject to any evil of this 
kind, observe it with a kind of satisfaction ; 
and draw attention to it by their vituperations, 
and enlarge on the enormity whether in 
their parents or their country in order that, 
while they neglect their own duty towards 
them, men may not make such neglect a 
ground of accusation, or reproach. And thus 
their censure far exceeds what is merited ; and, 
to unavoidable causes of dislike, they add 
causes of their own making. Whereas good 
men, on the contrary, dissemble in such cases, 
and compel themselves to speak even the lan 
guage of praise ; and, if ever at all enraged 
with their parents, or country, for wrong in 
flicted, they sober and tranquillise their feel 
ings, and seek a reconciliation by forcing 
themselves into a condition to love and admire 
those who are thus connected with them. /{ And 
so, I imagine, did Simonides frequently find it 
his duty to speak of a tyrant, or some similar, 
character, in terms of admiration and panegyric 
not willingly, remember, but by compulsion. 
This then explains what he says to Pittacus. 
If I blame you, Pittacus, it is not because I am 
fond of blaming ; since I, for my part, am 
content with a man who is not evil or helpless 


quite ; who does but know the justice that 
saves a city, and is of sound mind. Such a 
man I will not censure ; for censure I do not 
love : besides, infinite is the family of fools 
(thereby implying, that if a man were fond of 
blaming, he might take his fill by blaming 
these). Sure, all is fair wherewith foul is not 
mixed. And by this he does not mean the same 
as if he had said, Sure, all is white wherewith 
black is not mixed ; for this would be absurd, in 
more ways than one : but what he does mean 
to say is, that he admits of a mean which he 
does not condemn. And I search not, he says, 
for an all-blameless man among us, who feed 
on the fruits of the wide-bosomed earth ; when 
I find one, I will let you know. So that if on 
this depended praise, I should praise none ; 
but I am content with one who holds the mean, 
and does no evil ; since all I love and praise 
(here, as addressing Pittacus, he uses the 
dialect of Mytilene) ; since all I love and 
praise willingly (here, at the word willingly, 
we must make the pause in reading) who do 
nought vile ; there are some, though, whom I 
praise and love against my will. Thee there 
fore, Pittacus, hadst thou spoken but moderate 
sooth and reason, I would never have blamed ; 347 
but now, as thy lie is utter, and on the greatest 
things, while thou fanciest thyself speaking truth, 
I cannot choose but give thee blame. 

Such, Prodicus and Protagoras, I conclude 
to have been the object which Simonides had 
in view in the composition of this poem. 


And a very fair exposition you have made of 
it too, Socrates, in my opinion, said Hippias. 
I however, gentlemen, he continued, possess a 
critique of my own on this piece a very good 
one which I am willing to propound to you, 
if you would like to hear it. 

Thank you, Hippias, cried Alcibiades ; 
another day, if you please. To-day it s only 
fair that Protagoras and Socrates should fulfil 
their mutual agreement ; which binds Socrates 
to reply, if Protagoras has any further question 
to propose : but to ask questions himself, if 
Protagoras prefers to answer. 

Yes, I said, I leave it to Protagoras to 
choose whichever is more agreeable to him. 
But, Protagoras, I added, if you have no objec 
tion, I should like to drop these criticisms on 
songs and poems, and should much prefer 
coming to a conclusion on the former subject 
of our inquiry, by investigating it in company 
with you. For, I must confess, I think that 
talking about poetry bears a close resemblance 
to the festive amusements of the vulgar and 
uneducated. For these people, being too 
ignorant to converse together over their cups 
through the medium of their own voices and 
words, keep up the prices of flute-players by 
hiring, for large sums, the foreign aid of their 
flutes, and entertaining each other through 
their voices. But in the banquets of gentle 
men and scholars, you will see neither dancing- 
girls nor women that play on the flute or the 
lyre ; but you will find the guests themselves 


equal to the task of conversing, without these 
puerile toys, by their own voices ; both speak 
ing and listening in turn, with decency and 
order, even though they have drunk a great 
quantity of wine. And so too parties like the 
present, if indeed composed of such men as 
most of us profess to be, have no need to 
borrow the foreign voices even of poets, whom 
it is impossible to interrogate as to their mean 
ing ; but who are cited as authorities by com 
batants in their talk, while both sides assign a 
different sense to the citation, and persist in 
disputing a point, which they can never satis 
factorily settle. No ; wise men care nothing 
for such entertainment as this : but entertain 
each other with their own stores, by giving and 348 
receiving mutually, in their own conversation, 
proofs of their capacity. And such is the 
example which it appears to me that you and 
I ought rather to imitate ; let us throw the 
poets on one side, and, conducting the dis 
course by our own unaided efforts, bring at 
once truth and our own selves to the test. 
Should you therefore wish still to interrogate, 
I am ready to lend myself to you in reply : but if 
you prefer answering, do you lend me your aid in 
bringing to a conclusion that inquiry, of which 
we abandoned the discussion in the middle. 

Notwithstanding these and similar remarks 
on my part, Protagoras continued to keep us 
in the dark as to the course he should prefer ; 
upon which Alcibiades looked at Callias, and 
said, Callias, do you still think that Protagoras 


acts fairly in refusing to let us know whether he 
will answer or not ? For my part, I certainly 
do not think that he does. No, let him either 
continue the conversation, or tell us at once 
that he is unwilling to do so, in order that, his 
unwillingness being once clearly understood, 
we may either get Socrates to converse with 
some one else, or find another pair willing to 
engage in a discussion. Whereupon, Prota 
goras being piqued, as it appeared to me, by 
this remark of Alcibiades, and being pressed 
by Callias and nearly all the remainder of the 
party, was at length induced, though with great 
difficulty, to renew the conversation ; which he 
did by requesting me to start my inquiries, as 
he was now ready to reply. 

So I began. Pray do not imagine, Prota 
goras, that I have ever any other design in 
conversing with you, than a wish to examine 
thoroughly into difficulties which I cannot of 
myself unravel. I think that Homer was very 
right in saying, When two go together, one 
observes before the other. For so do all of us 
mortals acquire a greater facility for every deed, 
and word, and thought. But if haply a man 
has thought alone, he straightway goes up and 
down, and searches till he find some one else 
to whom he may communicate his thought, and 
in concert with whom he may verify it. And 
this is the reason why I have greater pleasure 
in conversing with you than with any other 
man in the world, as I am persuaded that none 
are so well capable of investigating all subjects 


which are worth the good man s study, and in 
particular the subject of virtue. For to whom 
but you should I apply ? when not only do you 
profess yourself a virtuous gentleman, just as is 
professed by many good people, who cannot 
impart their goodness to others ; but when, 
beside being virtuous yourself, you are able to 
make others virtuous also ; when, further, your 
confidence in yourself is so implicit, that, 
whereas it is the custom with other masters of 
your art to dissemble it with care, you, on the 349 
other hand, have yourself publicly cried under 
the name of a sophist before all the Greeks, 
and advertise yourself a teacher of accomplish 
ment and virtue ; being moreover the first to 
conceive yourself entitled to receive a price for 
your instructions. Is it not then eveiy man s 
duty to appeal to you for the investigation of 
these matters, to inquire into your opinions, 
and communicate his own ? Most assuredly it 
is. And so on the present occasion I am 
anxious to renew from the beginning those 
questions, which I in the first instance proposed 
to you on these subjects, hoping that you will 
remind me of points which we decided, and 
join me in considering others. My inquiry, if 
I remember right, was this : Wisdom, discre 
tion, courage, holiness, and justice, are these 
all but five names for one and the same thing ; 
or is there attached to each of these names a 
distinct idea, and a distinct thing possessing a 
separate function of its own, whereby it is 
distinguished from all the rest ? To this you 


replied, that they were not names of one thing, 
but that each of these names was applied to a 
distinct thing, and that all these things were 
parts of virtue, not like the parts of gold, 
which resemble both one another, and the 
whole whereof they are parts, but like the parts 
of the face, which are dissimilar from the whole 
and from one another, each being possessed of 
a distinct function. If then you still adhere to 
your former opinion, tell me ; but if you have 
altered it at all, mark the alteration clearly, as 
I hold you in no wise accountable for any 
difference of opinion you may choose to ex 
press. Nay, I should not be surprised if your 
previous answer was merely intended to try me. 

Well, Socrates, he said, I tell you that all 
these qualities are parts of virtue, and that 
four of them bear a reasonably close resem 
blance to one another, but that courage is very 
different indeed from them all. And the 
following fact will prove my assertion. You 
will find many men distinguished for injustice, 
impiety, intemperance, and stupidity, who are 
yet eminently conspicuous for their courage. 

Hold there a moment, I cried ; your observa 
tion is worth examining. By the courageous, 
do you mean the daring ? 

Yes, he said, and those who are ready to 
plunge into dangers which most men are afraid 
to encounter. 

Again, do you pronounce virtue to be a 
beautiful thing, and as being a beautiful thing 
do you come forward to teach it ? 



Nay, Socrates, as I m a sane man, I pro 
nounce it to be of all things most beautiful. 

Is, however, one part of it beautiful and 
another ugly, or is it all beautiful ? 

All beautiful, I consider, and in the highest 

Do you know who they are that dive into 
wells daringly ? 

Of course I do, said he. Divers. 350 

Is it because they know how to dive, or for 
some other reason ? 

Because they know how to dive. 

And who are daring fighters on horseback, 
good riders or bad ? 

Good riders. 

And who are daring as targeteers, those 
who understand the service or those who do 

Those who do. And so in everything else, 
he added, if this is what you are driving at, the 
scientific are more daring than the unscientific, 
and the same person when he has acquired the 
science is more daring than he was before he 
acquired it. 

Have you ever in your life, said I, met with 
persons who were unscientific in all these 
matters, and yet engaged in them all with 
daring ? 

Certainly I have, and with excessive daring. 

Are these daring people also courageous ? 

If they were, he answered, courage would be 
far from being a beautiful thing ; for these are 
mere madmen. 


Pray how do you define the courageous ? I 
asked. Did you not say they were the daring ? 

I did, and I say so now. 

It would appear then, said I, that those who 
are daring in this way are not courageous, but 
mad ; and from the former instances I adduced, 
that the wisest men are also most daring, and 
as being most daring are most courageous. 
So that by this reasoning, wisdom would be 
courage, would it not ? 

You do not rightly remember, Socrates, he 
answered, what I said in reply to your ques 
tion. When asked by you whether the cour 
ageous were daring, I agreed they were ; but 
whether the daring also were courageous, you 
did not ask me then. Had you done so, I 
should have replied, Not all. But that the 
courageous are not daring, and that I was 
wrong in admitting they were, you have no 
where proved. Instead of doing so, you take 
the trouble of showing, that those who possess 
science are more daring than they were them 
selves before they possessed it, and more daring 
than others who do not possess it, and thereby 
you conclude that courage and wisdom are 
identical. But, by pursuing this method of 
inquiry, you might equally well arrive at the 
conclusion, that bodily strength is wisdom. 
For if, in following out this course, you were in 
the first place, to ask me whether the strong 
were powerful, I should say, Yes ; if you were 
to proceed to inquire whether scientific wrestlers 
were more powerful than unscientific wrestlers, 



and more powerful than they were themselves 
before they had learnt the science of wrestling, 
I should again reply, Yes ; and after I had 
made these admissions, you would be in a con 
dition, by availing yourself of the same logic as 
before, to state that by my admission wisdom 
was bodily strength. But here again observe, 
I nowhere admit that the powerful are strong, 
though I do that the strong are powerful. For 
I do not consider strength and power to be 
the same ; but the one, power, to arise from 351 
science, yes, and from madness too, and pas 
sion ; but strength from sound nature and good 
bodily nourishment. In like manner, I main 
tain that courage and daring are not the same. 
Courageous men are daring, but it is not all 
daring men that are courageous ; for daring, 
like power, arises from scientific skill, and from 
passion too, and madness, but courage, from 
nature and good mental nurture. 

Do you allow, Protagoras, said I, that some 
men live well, and others ill ? 

I do, he replied. 

Do you think that a man would live well if 
he lived in vexation and pain ? 


But if he lived in pleasure to the day of his 
death, you would consider him then, would you 
not, to have lived well ? 

I should. 

To live pleasantly then, it appears, is a good 
thing ; to live unpleasantly, an evil thing. 

Yes, if the pleasures a man lives in be but honest. 


How, Protagoras, I exclaimed, do you main 
tain with the many, that some pleasant things 
are evil, and some painful things good ? For 
myself, I say, as far as things are pleasant, 
are they not so far good, if they are to have no 
other results ? And, on the other hand, are 
not painful things in the same way evil, in so 
far as they are painful ? 

I am not sure, Socrates, he replied, whether 
I ought to answer as unreservedly as you ask, 
that pleasant things are all good, and painful 
things all evil. No, I conceive that it would 
be safer for me, not only in reference to my 
present answer, but also to all the rest of my 
life, if I were to reply that there are some plea 
sant things which are not good, some painful 
things which are not evil, others again which are 
such, while there is a third class which are neither 
the one nor the other, neither evil nor good. 

By pleasant things, I asked, do you not mean 
those with which pleasure is connected or which 
cause pleasure ? 

To be sure I do, he replied. 

I ask then, whether they be not good, in so 
far as they are pleasant ; meaning by this ques 
tion to ask, whether pleasure itself be not a 
good thing. 

Well, Socrates, he answered, I say to yon, 
as you are always saying yourself, let us 
examine the matter, and if the question seem 
germane to our subject, and it appears that 
pleasure and good are the same, we will agree 
on the point ; if not, we will then join issue. 


Would you like, I asked, to take the lead in 
the examination yourself, or shall I ? 

You are the proper person to lead, he 
answered ; for it was you who started the sub 

Perhaps then, said I, by some way like the 
following, we shall arrive at a clear view of the 352 
question. Just as a person who was forming 
an estimate of a man s health or physical 
capacity in any particular, from a survey of his 
bodily form, would be sure to say to him, if he 
saw no more than his face and hands, Come, 
my good friend, strip, if you please, and show 
me your chest and your back, that I may 
inspect you more closely ; so do I now crave 
some disclosure of the kind for our present in 
vestigation. Having observed, from what you 
have told me, the state of your mind with 
regard to pleasure and good, I still require to 
say, Come, friend Protagoras, uncover your 
mind further, and show me its state with regard 
to knowledge. On this point, also, do you 
think as the many do, or differently ? Their 
opinion of knowledge is, that it is not a strong, 
nor a commanding, nor a governing thing ; nor 
do they form their notions with reference to it, 
as though it were such ; but conceive that, 
though knowledge is often to be found in a 
man, it is not his knowledge that governs him, 
but some other thing, at one time passion, at 
another pleasure, at another pain, sometimes 
love, and often fear ; so that they plainly think 
of knowledge as of a poor slave, liable to be 


dragged about at will by all those other things. 
Is this then your opinion also ? or do you 
conceive knowledge to be a noble thing, well 
fitted to govern mankind ; and that if a man 
does but know what is good and evil, he can 
never be so swayed by any other thing, as to do 
aught else than what his knowledge prescribes, 
and, in fine, that wisdom is well able to defend 
mankind ? 

I quite think as you say, Socrates, he 
answered. And besides, if for any man in the 
world, it were a shame for me, to deny that 
wisdom and knowledge are of all human things 
the mightiest. 

Well and truly said, I rejoined. Are you 
aware though, that most men do not believe 
you and me in this matter, but say that many 
people, who know what is best, do not choose 
to practise it, though it is in their power to 
practise it, but practise other things ? And 
never have I asked the reason of this conduct, 
but I have been told that such people act thus 
from being overpowered by pleasure or pain, or 
mastered by some one of those things which I 
just now mentioned. 

I don t doubt it, Socrates, he replied. There 
are many other points on which men speak in 

Come then, said I, and join me in endea 
vouring to persuade these men, and teach them 
353 what that state is, which they call being over 
powered by pleasure, and which prevents people 
from doing, although they know, what is best. 



For I should not wonder if on our saying to 
them, You speak incorrectly, my friends, you 
are deceived, they were to turn upon us with 
the question ; Protagoras and Socrates, if being 
overpowered by pleasure is not this, pray what 
is it ? what do you declare it to be ? tell us both 
of you. 

What business is it of ours, Socrates, to 
examine into tl^e opinion of the vulgar herd, 
who just say what comes first into their head ? 

I think, I replied, that we shall find this in 
quiry help us somewhat in discovering the 
relation which courage bears to the other parts 
of virtue. If it is your intention then to abide 
by our late agreement which assigned the lead 
to me, let me beg you to follow me on the road 
which I expect will best conduct us to the 
light. But if you are unwilling to do so, I will 
drop this question, if such be your pleasure. 

No, Socrates, said he ; you are right, finish 
as you have begun. 

Again then, said I, if they were to ask us, 
What do you declare this to be, which we 
called being subject to pleasures ? I for my 
part should answer, Hearken, my friends, we 
will endeavour to tell you, Protagoras and I. 
Do you not allow that you experience this sub 
jection in the following circumstances ? that 
often you are so swayed by eating and drinking 
and love, all pleasant things, that, though you 
know them to be evil, you still indulge in 
them ? 

Yes, they would allow it, said Protagoras. 


You and I then, Protagoras, will ask them 
again, In what point of view do you say that 
they are evil ? Is it because they afford this 
pleasure at the moment, and because each of 
them is pleasant for the moment, or because 
they lay up for your future life diseases and 
poverty, and many other similar evils ? Or, if 
they produced none of these after effects, but 
merely created pleasure, should you still pro 
nounce them evil for making a man pleased 
under any circumstances and in any way what 
soever ? Can we conceive, Protagoras, that 
they would return us any other answer, than 
that these things were evil, not for the mere 
fact of creating the momentary pleasure, but on 
account of the diseases and other results which 
follow in their train ? 

Such, I imagine, said Protagoras, would be 
the answer of the many. 

And when they create diseases, clo they 
create pain ? and when they create poverty, do 
they create pain ? They would assent to this, 
I think. 

And so do I, said Protagoras. 

Are you of opinion then, my friends, as I 
and Protagoras hold, that these things are evil 
for no other reason than because they terminate 
in pain, and deprive us of other pleasures ? 
They would assent ? 
354 We both agreed that they would. 

But suppose we were to reverse our question, 
and ask, When you speak, on the other hand, 
good people, of painful things being good, do 


you not mean such things as gymnastic exer 
cises, and military service, and the treatment 
of diseases by cautery and the knife, by dosing 
and starving ? Is it not such things you call 
good, but painful ? Yes, they would say. 
Granted, said Protagoras. 
Do you call these things good then for the 
reason, that they afford us at the moment the 
utmost pain and annoyance, or because their 
after results are the health and good condition 
of bodies, the safety, empire, and wealth of 
states ? For the latter reason, would be their 
answer, I think. 

Certainly it would, said he. 
Are these things good on any other account 
than because they terminate in pleasures, and 
in deliverance from, and avoidance of, pains ? 
Or can you tell me of some other end which 
you have in view when you call them good, than 
that of pleasure and pain ? No, they would 
answer, in my opinion. 
And in mine too, said he. 
Do you pursue then pleasure as being a 
good thing, and shun pain as being an evil 
thing ? 

They do, replied Protagoras. 
This then, pain, you esteem to be an evil, 
and pleasure to be a good ; since you say that 
even the enjoyment of pleasure itself is evil, 
when it deprives you of greater pleasures than 
itself contains, or produces pains which exceed 
its own pleasures. For, if you call pleasure 
itself an evil for any other reason, or with any 


other end in view than this, you may tell us, if 
you can ; but you cannot. 

No, I do not think they can, said Pro 

And is it not exactly the same, on the other 
hand, with suffering pain ? Do you not call 
pain itself a good, when it rids you of greater 
pains than its own, or produces pleasures 
which exceed its pains ? Since, if you have 
any other end in view when you call pain itself 
a good, you may tell us, if you can ; but you 

Quite true, Socrates, they cannot. 

But if, my friends, you were on your side to 
interrogate me and ask, Why ever do you say 
so much on this question, and turn it in so 
many ways ? Bear with me, I should reply ; 
for, in the first place, it is no easy matter to 
prove what that is which you call being subject 
to pleasures ; and secondly, on this very ques 
tion hinges all my proof. But even now, late 
as it is, you are at liberty to retract, if you can 
355 say that good is anything else than pleasure ; 
evil, anything else than pain ; if you can tell 
me that you are not content to live out your 
life pleasantly in freedom from pain. But if 
you are so content, and cannot tell me of any 
thing being good or evil, which does not ter 
minate in these, hearken to what follows. I 
maintain that, if this be the case, your words 
become ridiculous, when you say, that often a 
man who knows evil to be evil, practises it 
nevertheless, when he is not obliged to prac- 



tise lt , from being led and carried out of him 
self by pleasures; and when, on the other 
hand, you say, that the man, who knows what is 
good, does not choose to practise it, on account 
the immediate pleasures by which he is over 

Now the absurdity of these statements will 
e clearly seen, if we abstain from using the 
many names of pleasant and painful, and good 
and evil ; but agree, since the things have been 
ound to be only two, to call them only by two 
names; first, by those of good and evil, and 
ien by those of pleasant and painful. This 
being established, let us say, that a man 
knowing evil to be evil, nevertheless does it 
f any one ask us, Why? We shall answer, 
ecause he is overpowered. By what ? will be 
the next question. But we are no longer at 
liberty to say, By pleasure ; for it has received 
another name, and instead of pleasure, is now 
called good. Let us answer him then and say 
Because he is overpowered. By what? he 
will repeat. By good, we must reply. Now 
should our friend be disposed to raillery, he 
will laugh at us, and say, Ridiculous conduct 
this you speak of, when a man does evil know 
ing it to be evil, with no obligation to do it 
because he is overpowered by good. Is it by a 
good he will ask, which is worthy or not 
worthy in your opinion to overcome the evil ? 
To this, of course, we shall reply, Not worthy 
for otherwise the man whom we say is sub 
ject to pleasure would not be in fault. And 


in what respect, he will probably continue, 
are good things unworthy to overcome evil, or 
evil to overcome good ? is it in any other than 
in that of magnitude or quantity ? We shall 
not be able to mention any other than this. It 
is evident then, he will conclude, that by this 
case of being overpowered, you mean, choosing 
greater evil instead of less good. So far then 
on this track. Now let us change our names, 
and again applying the terms pleasant and 
painful to these same things, let us say that 
a man does things, which we before called 
evil and now call painful, knowing them to be 
painful, being overpowered by pleasant things, 
which are of course unworthy to obtain the 
356 mastery. And what other measure is there of 
pleasure in comparison with pain, than that of 
excess and defect ? that is to say, of one being 
greater or smaller than the other, more or less, 
stronger or weaker ? For if it be said, But, 
Socrates, there is a great difference between 
that which is pleasant at the moment, and that 
which is ultimately pleasant or painful ; Does 
it lie, I should ask, in anything else than in 
pleasure and in pain ? In nothing else, I am 
sure. No, like a man expert at weighing, put 
together all the pleasures, and put together all 
the pains, then set both their nearness and re 
moteness in the scales, and tell me which are 
the heavier. If you weigh pleasures against 
pleasures, the greater and the greater number 
are always to be chosen ; if pains against pains, 
the smaller and the smaller number ; if plea- 


sures against pains, then, if the pains be 
exceeded by the pleasures, whether near by 
remote, or remote by near, the line of con 
duct is to be pursued in which this excess is 
contained ; but if the pleasures be exceeded by 
the pains, then it is not to be pursued. Good 
people, I should ask, can these matters be 
settled in any other way ? I am sure that they 
could tell me of no other. 

Protagoras did not think they could either. 

Seeing, then, that this is the case, answer 
me the following question. Do the same 
objects appear to your sight to be greater in 
size when near, and smaller in size when re 
mote ? or do they not ? 

They do, would be their answer. 

And is it not the same with the thickness and 
number of objects ? And do not equal sounds 
appear louder when near, fainter at a distance? 

Yes, they would say. 

If then our wellbeing had depended upon 
this, upon our making and choosing great 
lengths, and our avoiding and not making 
small ones, what would, to all appearance, 
have been the safeguard of our life ? Would 
it be the art of mensuration, or the force of 
appearances ? Or would this latter have led 
us astray, and caused us to be ever choosing 
and ever rejecting the same things ; and ever 
repenting, in our practice and choice of lengths, 
both great and small ? while the art of men 
suration would bring to naught this phantom- 
show, and, pointing out to us the truth, would 


anchor our soul thereon, and bid it rest, and 
assure us our life s safety. Would they allow, 
think you, that, in this case, the art of men 
suration would save us, or some other art ? 

None other, said he. 

Again, if the security of our life depended on 
the choice of odd and even numbers, on 
choosing, at the proper time, the larger, and 
at the proper time the smaller, by compari 
son both between themselves and one another, 
whether they might be far or whether they 
might be near ; what would, in this case, be 
357 our life s safeguard ? Would it not be a 
science ? and would it not, further, be one of 
measurement, since it relates to excess and 
defect ? and since it has numbers for its 
object, could it be any other than arithmetic ? 
To this would our friends assent, or would they 

Protagoras agreed with me that they would. 

Come then, my friends, I proceeded, since 
the security of our life has been found to de 
pend on our choice of pleasure and pain being 
correct, with reference at once to quantity and 
degree and distance, does not our security 
appear to you, in the first instance, to consist 
in measurement, since it has to consider excess 
and defect and respective equality ? 

Yes, it must. 

And if in measurement, it must, of necessity, 
be an art and a science. 

Assuredly, they will say. 

What art, what science this is, we will in- 


quire some other time. That it is a science, is 
quite sufficient for the explanation which Pro 
tagoras and I have to give you of the question 
that you asked us. You proposed it, if you 
remember, at the time when Protagoras and I 
were agreeing that nothing was so powerful as 
scientific knowledge ; and that knowledge was 
ever dominant, wherever it existed, over both 
pleasure and everything else. But you, on the 
other hand, said that pleasure was often domi 
nant, even over the man that was possessed of 
knowledge ; and when we refused to agree 
with you, you proceeded to ask : Socrates 
and Protagoras, you said, if being vanquished 
by pleasure is not this, pray what is it ? what 
do you declare it to be ? Tell us. If, then, at 
that moment we had answered you, that it was 
ignorance, you would have laughed at us ; but 
now, if you laugh at us, you will laugh at your 
selves as well. For you have yourselves agreed, 
that whoever commits error in the choice of 
pleasure and pain that is, of good and evil 
commits it through defect of knowledge ; and 
not only of knowledge, but, as you further 
agreed, a knowledge of measurement. Now 
all action, that errs for want of knowledge, is 
committed, you must yourselves know, through 
ignorance. Being vanquished therefore by 
pleasure is ignorance, of all ignorance the 
greatest. Now of this Protagoras here pro 
fesses himself a physician ; and so do Prodicus 
and Hippias. But you, because you believe it 
to be something else than ignorance, neither go 


yourselves, nor send your children, to these 
sophists to be instructed in this matter, as 
though you imagined it could not be taught ; 
but, by being chary of your gold, and by refus 
ing to bestow it upon these men, succeed badly 
in your transactions, both public and private. 
358 Such would be the answer we would render to 
the crowd. But you, Hippias and Prodicus, I 
ask you, in concert with Protagoras, wishing 
you to join in our conversation, do you judge 
that what I say is true or false ? 

They all agreed that nothing was more true. 

You admit then, said I, that the pleasant is 
good, and the painful evil. But I would enter 
a protest against our friend Prodicus s verbal 
distinctions. Yes, my very excellent Prodicus, 
whether you call it pleasant, or agreeable, or 
enjoyable ; whatever be the name, from what 
ever quarter derived, which you may be pleased 
to give it, restrict yourself to that answer which 
I wish to hear. 

Prodicus laughed, and said he quite agreed 
with me, and so did all the rest. 

But what do you say to the following, I con 
tinued ? All actions which tend to this, to 
living, that is, pleasantly and without pain, are 
they not honourable, and, being honourable, 
are they not both good and useful ? 

They assented. 

If then, I added, the pleasant is good, no 
man who either knows or believes that other 
things are better than that which he is doing, 
if they are such things as he can do, proceeds 


to do the less good, when he might do the 
better. Neither is subjection to self aught else 
than ignorance ; mastery over self aught else 
than wisdom. 

They all assented. 

But tell me. What is ignorance, according 
to you? is it not having a false opinion and 
being deceived on matters of great moment ? 

Here again there was no dissentient voice. 

Is it not true then, said I, that no one enters 
willingly into evil, or into that which he con 
siders evil ; that it is not, in fact, in the nature of 
man to engage with deliberate purpose in what 
he believes to be evil instead of in good ; that 
no man, when compelled to choose one of two 
evils, will choose the greater, when he might 
choose the less ? 

All these questions met with universal assent. 

To the point then, I said. Do you say 
that there is such a thing as terror or fear? 
Do you understand by it the same as I do ? 
To you, Prodicus, I address myself. I under 
stand by it a certain expectation of evil, whether 
you call it terror or fear. 

Protagoras and Hippias were of opinion that 
this was the meaning both of terror and fear ; 
Prodicus thought it was of terror, but not of 

No matter for that, Prodicus, said I. But 
this does matter. If our former conclusions 
are true, will any man in the world deliberately 
enter into what he fears, when he might enter 
into that which he does not fear ? or is it 


impossible by our previous admissions ? for we 
have admitted that, what he fears he believes 
to be evil, and what he believes to be evil, he 
never engages in or chooses willingly. 
359 All agreed to this also. 

Prodicus and Hippias, said I, now that we 
have established these points, let us call on 
Protagoras to defend the answer which he gave 
us at first no, not quite at first. At first he 
said, that of the parts of virtue, which were 
five in number, there was not one like any 
other, and that each had a distinct function of 
its own. This is not the statement I mean, 
but a later one ; for afterwards he said, that 
four of these parts bore a reasonably close 
resemblance to one another, but that the fifth 
was widely different from the rest, this fifth 
being courage. And he told me that I should 
be convinced of this by the following fact. 
Socrates, said he, you will find men of the 
greatest impiety, and injustice, and intem 
perance, and ignorance most distinguished for 
courage. This will show you that courage 
differs greatly from the other parts of virtue. 
And astonished as I was by this answer at the 
moment, it has astonished me still more since 
my late investigations with you. However, at 
the time I asked him whether by the courageous 
he meant the daring. Yes, said he, and men 
eager for encounter. Do you remember giving 
this answer, Protagoras ? 

I do, he replied. 

Come then, said I, tell us what it is which, 


according to you, the courageous are eager to 
encounter ? Is it the same as cowards ? 


Is it different then ? 


Do cowards engage in what is safe, brave 
men in what is formidable ? 

So it is generally said, Socrates. 

You are right, said I; but this is not my 
question. According to you, what is it which 
brave men are eager to encounter ? that which 
is formidable, believing it to be formidable, or 
that which is not formidable ? 

Why the former, Socrates, your late argu 
ments have shown to be impossible. 

Again you are right, said I. If our reason 
ing was correct, no man engages in what he 
believes to be formidable, since we found that 
want of self-command was want of knowledge. 

Granted, said he. 

But on the other hand, all men engage in 
that which inspires them with confidence, 
whether they be cowardly or courageous, and 
in this point of view, at any rate, both the one 
and the other encounter the same things. 

But I can assure you, Socrates, he said, that 
no things can be more opposed to each other 
than the things which cowards and brave men 
encounter. To take the first instance that 
comes, the latter are willing to encounter war, 
the former are not. 

When it is honourable, I asked, to engage in 
it, or disgraceful ? 


When it is honourable, he answered. 

And if it is honourable, it is also good by 
our former admission ; for we admitted that 
all honourable actions were good. 

We did, said he ; and I am always of this 

And very properly too, I rejoined. But 
360 which class do you say are not willing to 
encounter war, when it is honourable and 
good ? 

Cowards, he replied. 

And if it be honourable and good, it is also 
pleasant ? 

Certainly, according to our premises. 

Do cowards knowingly refuse to engage in 
what is honourable, and pleasant, and good ? 

No ; for if we allow this, we shall overturn all 
our former admissions. 

And the courageous man? does not he en 
gage in what is honourable, and pleasant, and 
good ? 

I must allow he does. 

In a word then, the courageous men fear no 
base fears, when they do fear, nor are they 
inspired with base confidences. Is not this 
true ? 

It is, he answered. 

And if not base, are they not honourable ? 


And if honourable, good ? 


And are not the cowardly, the foolhardy, and 
the phrensied, possessed on the contrary with 


base fears, and inspired with base con 
fidences ? 

They are. 

And when they dare what is base and 
evil, do they dare it in consequence of any 
thing else than ignorance and want of under 
standing ? 

No, he replied. 

Again, said I. That which makes cowards 
cowardly, do you call it cowardice or courage ? 

Cowardice, of course. 

And have they not been found to be cowardly 
in consequence of their ignorance of that which 
is formidable ? 

Certainly they have. 

It is this ignorance then, it appears, which 
makes them cowardly ? 


And that which makes them cowardly you 
have allowed to be cowardice ? 

I have, he said. 

Ignorance then of that which is formidable 
and not formidable proves to be cowardice. 

He nodded his head. 

Again, said I, is courage opposite to cowardice? 


Is knowledge of that which is formidable and 
not formidable opposite to ignorance of the same ? 

Here again he nodded his head. 

And ignorance of this is cowardice ? 

Though with a very bad grace, he here 
nodded again. 

Knowledge then of that which is formidable 


and not formidable is courage, since it is oppo 
site to ignorance of the same. 

At this he would neither make a sign nor 
utter a word. 

So I said : How is it, Protagoras, that you 
will not say either yes or no to my question ? 

Finish by yourself, said he. 

Only one more question will I ask you. Do 
you still think, as you did formerly, that there 
are some men very ignorant, and at the same 
time very courageous ? 

You seem to stickle, Socrates, for the answer 
coming from me. Well, I ll indulge you so 
far, and say that by our previous admissions 
this appears to me to be impossible. 

I can assure you, said I, that I have no 
other motive in proposing all these questions 
than a wish to observe the relations of virtuous 
things, and the nature of virtue itself. For 
361 certain am I, that, if this point be once dis 
covered, we shall clearly discern that other, on 
which both you and I launched out into a long 
harangue, I in maintaining that virtue could 
not be taught, and you in maintaining that it 
could. And I can fancy the upshot of our 
conversation attacking and deriding us like a 
human being, and that, if it got a voice, it 
would say, You are strange persons, both of 
you, Socrates and Protagoras. You, Socrates, 
who formerly maintained that virtue could not 
be taught, are now bent on contradicting your 
self, by endeavouring to prove that all things 
are knowledge, both justice, and discretion, and 


courage ; a course of argument which leads 
most clearly to the result that virtue is a thing 
which can be taught. For if virtue were some 
thing different from knowledge, as Protagoras 
has been attempting to maintain, it evidently 
would not be susceptible of being taught ; but 
now, if it be found to be all knowledge, as you, 
Socrates, are insisting, it will be strange indeed 
if it cannot be taught. Protagoras, on the 
other hand, who started with asserting that he 
could teach it, seems now bent on proving, in 
contradiction to that assertion, that it is almost 
anything rather than knowledge, and conse 
quently the last thing in the world to be taught. 
I therefore, Protagoras, on observing how 
terrible is the confusion in which all these 
matters are thrown together, am all-desirous of 
bringing them to the light, and should be glad 
to follow up our late investigation by inquiring 
into the nature of virtue, and then reconsidering 
whether or no it is capable of being taught, lest 
haply the Epimetheus of your story trip us up 
treacherously in our examination, just as in the 
distribution of functions he neglected us care 
lessly, according to your account. The fore 
thought of your Prometheus pleased me far 
more than his brother s afterthought ; and it is 
because I take Prometheus for my counsellor, 
and look forward with his forethought over all 
my future life, that I busy myself with all these 
studies, and should be delighted, as I said 
before, to join you, if you have no objection, in 
fathoming them to the bottom. 


To this Protagoras replied, I for my part, 
Socrates, applaud your zeal, and your skill in 
the evolution of arguments. For I consider 
that in no point of view am I a bad man, and 
that I am the last person in the world to be 
jealous. Thus often ere now have I said of 
you, that among all whom I am in the habit of 
meeting, I admire you the most, and among 
those of your own age by far the most ; and I 
add, that I should not be surprised if you win 
yourself a place among our distinguished sages. 
And with regard to the present discussion, we 
will continue it on some future occasion, when 
agreeable to you, but to-day it is high time for 
me to betake myself to other business. 
362 So be it, said I, since such is your pleasure. 
For I too ought long ago to have departed on 
the errand I mentioned ; only I stayed to oblige 
the beautiful Callias. 

Our conversation thus concluded, we left the 


Printed by R. Si R. CLARK, Edinburgh. 


B Plato 

358 Phaedrus, Lysis, and